Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) had a serious skiing accident and is now in rehab. This finally gives her time to reflect on her love affair with Georgio (Vincent Cassel). The two fell for each other quickly and deeply. Tony enjoyed Georgio’s exuberance, his energy and life force. He was an adventure and whisked her away. But quickly his devotion to her started to show some serious dark spots and Tony found herself in way over her head.
It’s never much fun to watch a film about an abusive relationship. Mon Roi is no exception. It’s major strength are the characters that are both well-written and well-acted, but it is too long and doesn’t bring much to the table that doesn’t feel a little too clichéd.
Films about abusive relationships have to achieve two things: make us believe that the two people would fall for each other, and then make us understand why they’d stay with each other. Or at least why the abused would stay with the abuser. In that regard, Mon Roi works out nicely. We can see Tony’s vulnerability in the beginning, her isolation (she only ever seems to hang out with her brother and his girlfriend). We can see how she does have misgivings right from the start about Georgio’s behavior but how they feel more like an adventure than actually dangerous. It seems logical and clear why she would ignore those first twangs of doubt about him. And then when the extent of the problems become clear, she is in too deep. But it’s not only that. We believe that Georgio honestly cares for Tony – at least as far as he is able to – and she believes it, too, buying into this feeling again and again, even when she shouldn’t anymore and she knows it. When his focus is on her, his desire, his devotion, his emotionality are obviously manipulative, but undeniable and intoxicating.
The film is lucky to have its main actors. Without Emmanuelle Bercot and Vincent Cassel, this part would have never worked and without it, the entire film would have fallen apart. Because unfortunately it doesn’t have that much to offer outside of the well-characterized story of abuse (to which it doesn’t bring much insight, at least not if you’ve ever dealt with it directly or indirectly).
Although the relationship is realistic, watching Tony go back and back again makes watching the film a little grating. Of course, this could have been Maiwenn’s intent, but I doubt that she wanted me to start looking at my watch more and more and hoping that the film would get a move on soon. There were also some other weaknesses, in particular the parallels between Tony’s physical healing in the rehab center and her mental healing from the relationship are a little too on the nose. Subtlety is something else.
I also really would have liked it if Tony had at least one other woman in her life. The closest we get is her sister-in-law but she’s only secondary to Tony’s relatioship with her brother. And while it may have been an essential point in the beginning to see Tony as an isolated person and thus easy prey, it wouldn’t have hurt if there was another woman among her new friends in the rehab center. But even there the men take center stage in her life.
Nevertheless there is something about the film, and maybe just like Tony can’t leave that easily, I can’t just brush it off.