(photo credit: PR)
Hebrew title: Melech Sheli
Directed by Maïwenn With Emmanuelle Bercot, Vincent Cassel
Running time: 124 minutes
Check with theaters for subtitle information.
The French film My King is a very engaging movie about a failed relationship. The film succeeds because of the appealing performances of its leads.
The movie not have much to say that is new about how an insecure woman can be tormented by a sexy, narcissistic man who alternately overwhelms her with affection and rejects her coldly, but it tells this ageold story in a way that held my interest.
Actress Emmanuelle Bercot, who visited Israel last spring as part of the French Film Festival, stars as Tony, a reserved but sweet lawyer who, uncharacteristically, approaches Georgio (Vincent Cassel) at a nightclub. Georgio is a hardpartying guy who owns restaurants.
Tony might be less glamorous than the models he usually hangs out with, but he falls for her, much to her surprise — and his.
Their relationship deteriorates, predictably, when she has a child, a child he very much wanted when the baby was just an idea. Once the actual baby arrives, Georgio can’t cope with the day-to-day demands of caring for the child nor of being there for Tony while she copes with being a new mother.
The story of their relationship unfolds while she is at a seaside rehabilitation facility (it looks like a luxury resort) after she breaks her leg badly in a skiing accident. She reflects on their married life together as she undergoes painful physical therapy. While the metaphor of her injury as a reflection of the psychological wounds that Georgio inflicted on her may sound heavyhanded, it works very well. As she comes to terms with the past, she is able to engage more fully in the present and becomes friends with a group of young therapists at the facility.
This is the kind of story that we have all seen in real life, when someone we care about falls in love with someone who obviously will never treat them well, will never be faithful, etc. But since the story is told from Tony’s point of view, we see how strong her connection to Georgio is and how her love for him makes her give him chance after chance, even when she knows that she can never count on him.
Bercot is extraordinary in the role, and she won the Best Actress award at Cannes in 2015 in a very competitive year for her performance, beating out Isabelle Huppert and tying with Rooney Mara for Carol. Bercot is convincing as an outstanding lawyer, a responsible mother and a woman who is falling apart, as she can’t cope with a cheating husband. She makes Tony so real that she seems like a friend you are frustrated with — you want to lecture her, as her brother does, about how she can never count on Georgio, no matter what he promises. But she also creates a grudging respect for the intensity of her love and, knowing better, I rooted for things to go well for the lovers whenever Georgio was behaving decently.
Cassel, who was rather wooden as the ballet company director who plays mind games with Natalie Portman in Black Swan, is extremely seductive here, and you can see why the obviously intelligent Tony can’t help herself when he pursues her.
The dialogue sounds like real people talking, and the title of the film comes from an ironic crack by Georgio at the beginning of the relationship, that he is not just a jerk but the king of jerks. Had Tony been able to accept his self-assessment, the movie would have ended after 10 minutes.
The movie was co-written and directed by Maïwenn, a model/ actress who has been making well-regarded movies for several years. She has a gift for getting natural, believable performances from her actors, and a particular affection for heroines.