Do you remember the gorgeous 1966 French film, “A Man and a Woman,” written and directed by Claude Lelouch? When I saw it I thought it was the most beautiful love story I’d ever seen.
Now, half a century later, another French film, “Mon Roi,” (“My King”) provides what might be seen as a possible sequel to that earlier film — what it would be like if that tender love story didn’t work out.
In director Maiwenn’s beautifully filmed tale the man and woman begin a casual flirtation in a restaurant that very quickly develops into a passionate relationship. She, Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) and he, Georgio (Vincent Cassell) fall in love so quickly and so earnestly that you might be forgiven for initially doubting his sincerity.
When he reveals that he wants to have a baby with her, however, she delightedly complies, and when she becomes pregnant they marry. But their happiness is soon disrupted by his distraught former girlfriend, Agnes (Chrystele Saint Louis Augustin), who, upon hearing this news, attempts suicide.
Wracked with guilt, Georgio vows to look after Agnes while she recovers, but his attentions and ministrations continue long after her recovery. Eventually, Tony recognizes that Georgio appears to be more concerned with Agnes’ well-being than he is with hers, and she leaves him.
But they are still in love, and so they begin a cycle of returning and leaving each other until they reluctantly, but inevitably, divorce.
While it is useless to assign blame, it is also impossible to overlook Georgio’s overweening selfishness throughout their relationship. His infidelities, his emotional violence, and his passive-aggressive behavior. But it’s also hard to resist his persuasive charm.
It’s also hard to ignore the beautiful cinematography of Claire Mathon and the impeccable pacing of the entire film. And, despite its wistful conclusion, it is still compelling enough to bring back to memory, at least for me, the warm, engrossing love story of “A Man and a Woman.”
The critics, however, were not so generous in their evaluations of “Mon Roi.” Rotten Tomatoes gave it only a 75% rating and Metacritic’s jury gave it “mixed or average” reviews. Nevertheless, it was nominated for 13 important awards, including the Palme d’Or of the Cannes Film Festival, and Best Film, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Editing, Sound, and Original Music, from the Cesar Awards presented by the Academie des Artes et Techniques du Cinema, as well as Lumieres nominations for Best Director, Actress, and Cinematography. Sadly, the only major award won was from the Cannes Film Festival for Emmanuelle Bercot for Best Actress.
“My King” (“Mon Roi”) will open Friday, Aug. 26, for its Los Angeles premiere at the Laemmle Royal, located at 11523 Santa Monica Blvd. A national release will follow.