American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
“My King” is one of the most ambitious types of movies out there: a relationship film. Standing out is a tall order, especially with the multitude of artists who try to articulate the unspeakable phenomenon of love and its intangible conditions. Though it too readily compares to other intimate observations on life-changing connections, you could place this take by director Maïwenn somewhere between Ingmar Bergman’s masterful “Scenes from a Marriage” and Derek Cianfrance’s searing “Blue Valentine,” while never being able to forget "My King"'s two brilliant performances from Emmanuelle Bercot and Vincent Cassel.
The story begins with Bercot's middle-aged Tony heading to physical therapy after hurting her knee during a skiing accident. We soon learn that this is the present, and a trauma is in her past. Her therapist asks her why she made a mistake when skiing this time, and then reasons that Tony's body couldn’t deal with a past event. Maïwenn touches upon how trauma could be felt physically in the body, a vivid metaphor for the the way in which heartbreak doesn’t just mess with our lives, but can consume us completely. Physical therapy proves an apt, genuine framing device, as Maïwenn's script (co-written with Etienne Comar) is in so much pain itself.
The pain from Tony's knee comes from that of a great love, embodied by Vincent Cassel’s Georgio. From the beginning, the movie puts a unique claim on the intimate love story by placing it strictly from a woman’s perspective (using a female cinematographer, Claire Mathon, to boot). We first see Georgio as just a face in the crowd outside a dance floor, while the intoxicating Son Lux song “Easy” plays. Tony soon initiates the meet-cute by flicking water in his face, a reference to when they knew each other from much earlier days; since then they’ve had their own experiences, she a now-ex-husband, and he looking to settle down. With timing on their side and passion to share, they connect instantly—an apartment, a baby, a new group of friends, a devastating implosion and more follow.
In regards to the filmmaking of the very promising Maïwenn, "My King" is a bit of a drop-off from the heights of her previous thriller “Polisse,” a highly-recommended thriller that captured the many days of many different lives of those in a police division, like a season of a show compacted in a brilliant two-hour cut. Though just as darkly beautiful, "My King" is a distinct shift towards more ordinary filmmaking, with the back-and-forth narrative erring towards generic. But while the directing doesn’t have a distinct visual sense to leave a mark of its own, its the center couple that arguably matters most with a film like this, of which “My King” charts a relationship step-by-step with incredibly vivid performances from Cassel and Bercot.