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CANNES 2021 Critics’ Week

Review: Robust


- CANNES 2021: In her debut feature film, Constance Meyer pays tribute to Gérard Depardieu through a bittersweet mirror tale about an aging star, loneliness and the need for a few loving words

Review: Robust
Déborah Lukumuena and Gérard Depardieu in Robust

"In the darkness of my lounge, the man appeared on screen, then disappeared; his eyes shone like two beacons in the pitch-black night that was my daily life (…) My children have grown up, men have left my life, but he is still there, on screen; he appears and then disappears; maybe he will reappear, one day, at a junction in the road". By placing these words in the mouth of a female fan of the protagonist in her first feature film Robust [+see also:
interview: Constance Meyer
film profile
, a work presented out of competition in the opening slot of the 60th Critics’ Week, unfolding within the 74th Cannes Film Festival, French filmmaker Constance Meyer tells us a great deal about her intentions and feelings vis-à-vis her main actor Gérard Depardieu. It is, in fact, a mirror which the director is holding up as she offers him the (golden) role of a famous, aging actor who is blasé, misanthropic, temperamental, self-centred, evasive and hypochondriacal, but who is also very simple and direct in his manner, who loves his food and who offers glimpses of profound suffering which border on endearing.

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"I’d like to be dead, so that people would leave me the hell alone". In his beautiful home in the Parisian suburbs, replete with a garden and an immense aquarium populated by deep-sea fish who swim in total darkness, Georges (Depardieu) drives his security guard (Steve Tientcheu) round the bend and back again, as the latter tries to supervise his daily life and to make sure he’s where he needs to be for meetings, fittings and film shoots. It’s by no means a walk in the park, not least because the actor is prone to disappearing one minute and proving himself highly intrusive the next, which Aïssa (Déborah Lukumuena), who is taking over the reins of this luxury-level "baby-sitting", will very soon discover. As the days go by, this young woman, who has her own problems to deal with (an unusual physique, a very high-level wrestling career, stifled romantic desires, a modest social background…), and her employer, get to know one another in a confined space (not without minor moments of friction), where they surrender themselves to a timid dance of rapprochement, whilst also protecting their individual space.

Both funny and melancholy, Robust tells an intentionally low-key tale, echoing the crepuscular and lonely mood of this film star who displays both beauty and deformity, a fear of death and the abrupt manner of those who have seen it all, but who’s also able to transcend it all in an instant ("look at me now, defeated, timid and enslaved, like a child"). It’s a role which Gérard Depardieu masters to a tee (to no-one’s surprise), brilliantly supported by his partner, and approaching the part as if it were a bird in his hand: gently so as not to over-power it, but firmly enough to sustain it.

Robuste is produced by Dharamsala, and co-produced by France 2 Cinéma and Belgium’s Scope Pictures. International sales are entrusted to Indie Sales.

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(Translated from French)

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