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CANNES 2024 Un Certain Regard

Review: Le Royaume


- CANNES 2024: Following in the wake of a teenage girl whose father is a Corsican mob boss under attack from his rivals, Julien Colonna’s first feature film is impressively tense and true to life

Review: Le Royaume
Ghjuvanna Benedetti in Le Royaume

"Listen to me when I’m talking to you, my girl (…) What you see and hear here, you don’t talk about with anyone. Ever". When a film opens with a teenage girl gorily carving up a wild boar, at the end of a hunt involving a group of men who are clearly very tight, you know you’re in for a story that doesn’t pull any punches. But appearances can be partially deceiving, because Julien Colonna strikes an ideal balance between a high-tension thriller set against a backdrop of organised crime, and a far more intimate work about a father-daughter relationship in his brilliant first feature film, Le Royaume [+see also:
interview: Julien Colonna
film profile
, which was presented in the Un Certain Regard section of the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

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"We’re not asking a kid’s opinion. It’s already complicated enough". Fifteen-year-old Leisa (acting revelation Ghjuvanna Benedetti) thinks she’s in for a blissful summer on the beach, before she’s removed from her aunt’s house, where she lives, and entrusted to a biker who drives her to an isolated town where her father Pierre-Paul Savelli (the charismatic Saveriu Santucci) and a dozen other troubled men are gathered together. As the days go by, the young woman realises - by listening to the TV, by eavesdropping on hushed conversations and by casting an eye over the newspapers – what’s going on: an exploding car ambushed in Ajaccio almost resulted in the death of Corsica’s regional president. But the real target was Leisa’s father, described by the media as an "enigmatic mob boss who’s been wanted by the police since March 91" and who wields a certain level of influence over the island’s politics and underworld. And "at a time when certain regions are highly sought after, an event like this could mark the beginning of a new bloody chapter in the island’s history".

"I don’t trust anyone". As the dead bodies mount up and Pierre-Paul and his men try to work out who’s attacking them, drawing up counter-attack plans of their own, the father and daughter slowly become better acquainted with one another. But danger is drawing near, and Leisa has no intention of leaving her father, despite his attempts to shelter and protect her from his criminal world as far as is humanly possible (as a song in the film emphasises, "how quickly time goes by, just yesterday she was so small, and now her first pangs carve out your first wrinkles and your first concerns")…

Building upon an excellent screenplay (penned by the director in league with Jeanne Herry), Le Royaume dazzles for its authenticity, its impeccable cast and its detailed and highly credible reconstruction of the atmosphere created by criminality. But this movie verging on a kind of Corsican Godfather, with its codes, its twists and turns, its underground world, its wanderings on the beautiful island of Corsica and its strategies, weapons and score settling, very cleverly takes the path of burgeoning intimacy and father-daughter love. It’s a blend which makes this film noir boasting arthouse undertones and shot wonderfully on real-fake 35 mm by director of photography Antoine Cormier, an especially accomplished (and easy to access) entry in Julien Colonna’s career.

Le Royaume is produced by Chi-Fou-Mi Productions and sold worldwide by Goodfellas.

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(Translated from French)

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