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When thinking of Mon Roi (My King), two things come to mind: the first is the title of a novel by Lucia Etxebarria, Love, Prozac And Other Curiosities, the second is With or without you by U2 (and yes, I am aware I might have just lost you there). And yet, it is this two sentences that, especially if combined,  best summarise this film by Maïwenn, a drama starring Emmanuelle Bercot, Vincent Cassel and Louis Garrel that is in competition for the Palme D’Or at Cannes.
Having torn her knee ligament in a skiing accident, Tony (Bercot) is sent to a physiotherapy clinic in order to recover. There, a psychologist suggests that this accident might be an occasion to work on some unresolved issues in her past relationships – an idea backed with bizarre evidence such as the knee being an articulation that only bends backwards (suggesting the need to look back) and a pun that is lost in translation (genou, French for knee, sounds very similar to  je, nous – me, us – hence the focus on her love life). mon-roi Whether she is sold on it or not, Tony begins to reflect on her relationship with Georgio (Cassel), reliving all of its ups and downs (“ups and downs” being a major understatement). Maïwenn chooses to chronicle their ardent love story from their first meeting and proceed in a linear way, intercutting the flashbacks with scenes from the present day, which focus on Tony’s recovering process. At the beginning, Tony and Georgio really are the perfect couple – funny, successful and clearly head over heels in love – causing us to become invested in their relationship. This is probably due to My King‘s strongest suit, its cast: Bercot and Cassel share some real on-screen chemistry, and even Louis Garrel, who unsurprisingly plays the part of the impossibly cool, perennially unimpressed guy, later reveals a softer side as Tony’s protective brother. Their powerful performances go from amusing to quite moving, and that’s probably what makes this relatively banal story still compelling to watch. MonRoi My King is told entirely from Tony’s point of view, which is understandable, as it is her recollections we are seeing. However, she is almost always presented as the victim, and while it is undeniable that this is often the case, the film is missing some acknowledgement on her side of what she, too, might have done wrong. This seems slightly at odds with the idea that emotional healing can pass through physical recovery, and that she should see the her accident as the occasion to figure out unresolved issues in her past. But then again, the idea that she might be able to heal her emotional wounds in the same way she could recover the use of her knee seems quite shaky. Lasting just over two hours, My King doesn’t really give us the closure we need; on the contrary, the more the film progresses, the more it feels like every flashback is another episode in the seemingly never-ending soap opera that is their life. Will they make up, break up or grow up? The bets are open.​ This review was originally published on Nisimazine


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When she opened her box, Pandora released all the evils it contained out into the world, and only hope was left at the bottom. I was often reminded of the mythical box when watching Emmanuelle Bercot’s Standing Tall , with the difference that hope, too, seems to have fled from the film.

Standing tall follows ten years in the life of a boy named Malony. It begins with his first encounter with a judge when he is 6 and follows him for the next ten years, during which he goes from being a child marred by an extremely unstable family situation to a full-fledged juvenile offender. The meetings with the judge punctuate the film and lend it its structure, as it is through them that we get to find out what trouble Malony has gotten himself into. We almost never never see him at it, but rather learn about what he has done through the inevitable legal audience that follows.

Malony is fueled by an uncontrollable rage that is also his only form of self-expression. This destructive force is very tangible throughout the film, and as viewers we constantly fell like we’re on the brink of an explosion. Standing tall  is pervaded by a feeling of hopelessness and doom too, for every time we think he has hit rock bottom, something else happens that plunges him even further down. The boy seems to have given up on himself, aware that he exists on the margins of society and that such condition is hardly going to change.

Marginalisation, mixed with class and ethnicity-related issues, is a theme that recurs throughout the film: it pops up in the conversations between young
offenders, it is evident in the difference between Malony’s mother and the judge, it is even mentioned casually by Malony, fully aware of how the world perceives him. In this sense, it is interesting that Bercot chose to include a song also featured in La haine, establishing a connection between her protagonist and Kassovitz’s banlieue boys, driven by a similar rage and resentfulness towards a society that refuses to include them.

Malony can at least count on the help of the judge, undeterred in her efforts to rescue him, and that of Yann, a young offender-turned-social worker that sees something of his previous self in the boy. The dynamics between the three are intricate and fragile, sometimes revealing unknown sides to the story. Newcomer Rod Paradot, in the role of the protagonist, can fully hold his ground against Benoit Magimel (the social worker Yann) and the cinema legend that is Catherine Deneuve in the role of the persevering judge.

Perseverance, marginalisation and redemption are extremely well explored in Standing tall, and in a year marked by debates on the inclusiveness of our society, it is encouraging to see Cannes take notice of them by choosing this film to open the festival. While not entirely convincing, the deceptively open ending seems to believe in the potential of salvation and second chances, suggesting that, after all, there might still be some hope left at the bottom of Pandora’s box.


Article originally published in Nisimazine Cannes