Kings And Queen

Movie Review by Jonathan Harvey

Starring: Emmanuelle Devo, Mathieu Amalric, Catherine Deneuve, Maurice Garrel
Director: Arnaud Desplechin

In ROIS ET REINE, the new film by French director Arnaud Desplechin, parallel storylines tell the tales of two ex-lovers, Nora and Ismaël: Nora’s now a single mother who has to care for her terminally ill father; meanwhile Ismael, a brilliant musician holed in up in mental ward, plots his escape.

The film revolves around the elegant and beautiful Nora, played by Emmanuelle Devos, and the various men whose lives are entwined with hers, across the generations. For she has to care both for her elderly father, a celebrated writer dying from terminal cancer, and at the same time for her young son Elias, whose father Pierre died before he was born. And in the midst of this Nora wants Ismaël, who’s her second lover and trying to escape from the hospital, to care for Elias.

Nora’s at the heart of all of this and her portrayal perhaps becomes too harsh as the film reaches its climax. This may have something to do with the fact that in France the film was seen to be an attack by Desplechin on his former lover Marianne Denicourt (who then wrote a book which was a thinly veiled counter-attack). Yet despite this ROIS ET REINE is a rich and intriguing drama, with characters depicted sensitively by a fine ensemble cast (as well as Devos, Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve offer strong support).

The biggest problem is a rather simple one – the film is just too long. 2 hours and 30 minutes is the sort of duration that might be expected of a grand, sweeping epic, but for such a low-key romantic drama as this it eventually outstays its welcome. This is a shame as the characters do benefit from the time afforded to them, but it’s hard to see how it couldn’t have been more concise. Some scenes are particularly weakly scripted and acted, such as the flashbacks with the appearance of the dead husband Pierre, and they take the shine away from what is fundamentally a good story. To enjoy this fully will need a good dose of patience, but if you can get past the running time, it’s an entertaining watch.

4 out of 6 stars