The Movie Waffler French Film Festival UK 2021 Review - ROBUST | The Movie Waffler

Sponsor

French Film Festival UK 2021 Review - ROBUST

robust review
A young bodyguard is assigned to a crotchety veteran actor.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Constance Meyer

Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Déborah Lukumuena, Lucas Mortier, Megan Northam, Caroline Donnelly

robust poster

Ever since the breakout success of 2011's Intouchables, French cinema has offered several similar movies with such odd couple dynamics. The latest, Robust, comes from writer/director Constance Meyer and boasts two heavyweight (both literal and metaphorical) performances from Gallic screen legend Gérard Depardieu and rising star Déborah Lukumuena.

robust review

Depardieu is a natural fit for the role of Georges, a cantankerous aging actor who finds himself assigned a new bodyguard when his regular man is called away. The job goes to 24-year-old Aïssa (Lukumuena), who is a promising wrestler when she's not performing her day job.


Thankfully Robust avoids the sort of clichéd dynamic you might expect from its combination of a grouchy rich old white man and a young black woman. Indeed, race is never mentioned, and once Georges gets over the initial shock of being assigned a female bodyguard, neither is gender.

robust review

This isn't so much a movie about a clash of cultures or personality types so much as it's about two people who seem very different but learn they have a lot in common. As an actor, Georges spends much of his life pretending to be someone else, and as a bodyguard, Aïssa is required to suppress her personality and blend into the background. Georges' profession requires him to be larger than life, while Aïssa's asks her to be invisible, but they're both essentially performers.


Once the pair accept one another, Robust becomes a charming drama about an initially unlikely friendship. When they're apart, we see that neither Georges nor Aïssa are particularly content with their lot in life. There's a wonderful scene in which Georges rudely interrupts Aïssa's date with a co-worker she's been sleeping with. Georges asks the man if he loves Aïssa, which leads her to speak one of the saddest lines I've heard in quite some time – "I know he doesn't love me, I just didn't need to hear it." At the opposite end of life as his young minder, Georges has no such time to waste on flings. Everything has to mean something at his point in life.

robust review

Unfortunately, the movie itself doesn't seem to share Georges' idea that time is precious, as it wastes much of its first hour on subplots and details that ultimately prove inconsequential. It functions best when Depardieu and Lukumuena are sharing the screen, their characters pretending to ignore the other's advice but taking it all in nonetheless. If this were the pilot for a TV show, its structure would be forgivable as we'd be aware we'll get to spend more time with these two people. As it is, Robust ends just at the point when we're finally beginning to warm to its protagonists.

Robust
 is playing as part of the French Film Festival UK.
2021 movie reviews