A Tumultuous Marriage
The French director Maïwenn in “My King” gives us a rounded and ribald portrait of a marriage between two very different people who struggle to define their relationship once the sexual attraction has cooled off. The drama is seen from the perspective of the woman. They meet in a Paris nightclub and begin a tumultuous journey that will take them through courtship, marriage, parenthood, and countless fights to see who is in charge. Georgio (Vincent Cassel) is a rich restaurateur who is proud of his large circle of friends. He is handsome and charismatic.
Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) is a thirty-something lawyer who winds up getting frustrated as their relationship develops over the years. There is a moment when she reveals her feelings of inadequacy in bed, recalling that her ex-husband criticized her for having a vagina that was too big. Although Tony is not really ready for motherhood, she agrees to Georgio’s wishes to have a child, and a son is born.
The chief obstacle to their continuing intimacy is that Georgio is looking after and spending a great deal of time with Agnes (Chrystele Saint Louis Augustin), a former lover who is a Vogue model addicted to drugs and continuously feeling sorry for herself. We learn more about Georgio through the opinions and observations of Tony’s younger brother (Louis Garrel) and his girlfriend (Isild Le Besco) who sometimes are caught in the crossfire of the battles between the married couple.
TW learn about the marriage through Tony’s memories while she is at a rehabilitation center after injuring her knee in a serious ski accident and most of the film follows Tony and Georgio’s vain efforts to save their marriage after it has been irreparably torn apart by Georgio’s ego and need to control everything. We see how Georgio and Tony are unable to find the patience, understanding, empathy, and forgiveness that they need to stay together. needed to sustain their life together in love.
We see a dysfunctional relationship that has little hope of dissolving. At first, Georgio seems like an ideal male for someone since he is quick, confident, playful, financially well off and he has sexual magnetism. We understand what Tony sees in him. She is inexplicably picked by Georgio and is embraced by a man that she feels is unlikely to embrace her.
When Georgio and Tony sleep together for the first time, Tony asks Georgio if she’s too big, and Georgio soon discerns that she’s referring to her vagina. This is a kind of uncomfortable intimate moment that usually we do not see in a movie. Georgio handles the situation well and soothes her insecurities, telling Tony that any man who claims that about her mustn’t have much to work with. Cassel and Bercot show a wonderful rapport in this scene. They are alive for and aware of one another and director Maïwenn catches their poise and most minute movements. Even during sex, Georgio can laugh at himself and make Tony feel comfortable in giving herself to him. She acquiesces to him as he takes lead of their relationship, both in and out of the bedroom.
However, Georgio is capable of only grand, impulsive romantic gestures. The maintenance of a relationship is held together by dependency and the willingness to enjoy the dull as well as the exciting moments has no importance for him; he only needs exhilaration and attention. His life is one of parties and he blames Tony for logically resenting his antics, particularly after they marry and have a child. Georgio was always going to go out, but must make sure that responsibility for his actions is because of Tony.
Every move that Georgio makes toward Tony after their marriage is manipulative and double-edged. Georgio is a narcissist and a psychological abuser who plies Tony with affection and then withholds it for effect. He then threatens her, then showers her with affection again when he feels that she might be upset with his behavior. He somehow talks Tony into allowing him to keep a second apartment for “work”; when she inevitably catches him with another woman, he switches the topic to his previously unknown drug addiction. The relationship goes on in this pattern throughout the film. Tony says that she wants a man who shares her interests, and Georgio, misses her meaning in this and jokes about it and asks if all she needs is a man to read a book beside her under a tree.
This is an honest film and we see that when we realize that we resent Tony nearly as much as we do Georgio. Georgio screws Tony over, over and over again, with her always forgiving him despite herself. Throughout the film is its understanding of this relationship as a dance of give and take. It is a partnership in which Tony holds more power and agency than she seems to and we begin to understand that she is as superficial as Georgio. He is incapable of even having lunch with his family without turning it into a shtick that allows him center stage, but Tony never grows exhausted with him. Their eventual divorce rejuvenates the relationship, giving Georgio the illusion of freedom that he needs and giving Tony the pretense of authority that she craves.
Maïwenn gives us a film about co-dependency that capturing the erotic contours of subservience and flattery and the understanding that love that can be truly described as a drug.