Some people aren’t good for each other. Relationships that start off with such allure soon turn to dust when the spark falters. In most instances the couple splits up, but in the worst case scenario they cling to each other like limpets, too busy fighting the past to move forward. Mon Roi offers up a prime example, but while the initial charm works like magic, there’s no heft to the emotional decline. Maïwenn’s film falls into a tedious cycle of screaming matches and flirtation played out ad nauseam.

It all begins innocuously enough. Emmanuelle Bercot’s criminal lawyer Tony catches sight of Georgio (Vincent Cassel), an old acquaintance from her bartending days. Sprinkling water in his face while he’s surrounded by a bevy of attractive people in a club, she makes quite the impression. Soon he’s inviting her back to his luxury apartment, introducing her to his life and proposing. An exuberant clown and slick charmer, he has her permanently in stitches and regularly out of clothes.

If it could have ended there, all would be good. Tony and Georgio make for an attractive couple, and they certainly seem to enjoy each other’s company. It’s all very lightweight but undeniably enjoyable. And then the bad times come, both for the unhappy couple and the film. Georgio’s overbearing personality takes over. Sleeping around and consuming a cocktail of drugs, he decides to set up a bachelor pad down the road. Exerting intense psychological pressure on Tony, he forces her to acquiesce. An old girlfriend also refuses to exit the scene. The mentally unstable Agnés lays into Tony and tries to take her own life when she finds out they’re having a baby.

Maïwenn, who co-wrote the screenplay with Etienne Comar, can’t find the right register for this turmoil. They shout and scream, they make up, they shout and scream, they make up. Others around Tony try to talk sense into her, particularly her pensive brother Solal (Louis Garrel) but to no avail. It’s never clear why she can’t get out from under his thumb, the dark recesses of their relationship ignored in favour of blazing rows.

Boy do those rows blaze. It’s almost embarrassingly over-the-top. Bercot manages the quieter moments well before losing it completely along with Tony. Cassel grandstands in a different and equally annoying way. Initially a suave seducer, he soon becomes an obnoxious bore who fails to develop further. Neither of them are much fun to be around which is a real problem when they’re prattling about on screen for over two hours.

As the film wears on, the only moments of respite come through a largely redundant framing device. Injuring herself skiing at the start, the story unfolds as Tony uses this period of incapacitation to reflect on her troubled recent years. Awkward attempts to show she bonds with clowns wherever she goes aside – she befriends a group of energetic young jokers in rehab – there’s really no point in the recuperation stopovers. They seem to exist to move the flashbacks on every time they hit a wall.

Eventually, everything’s hitting the wall far too often. Mon Roi is a flimsy waif of a film, a partially unfurled flag flapping limply in the wind. It’s unfortunately attractive enough to lure everyone into what becomes an unvirtuous circle of ever increasing shouting. Thank God the volume finally dies down. As for Tony and Georgio, by the end, I wish they’d never met.

Director: Maïwenn
Writers: Etienne Comar (screenplay), Maïwenn (screenplay)
Stars: Vincent Cassel, Louis Garrel, Emmanuelle Bercot
Runtime: 130 min
Country: France

Film Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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