Breakout star Déborah Lukumuena stars alongside veteran actor Gérard Depardieu in Robust, the feature debut from French filmmaker Constance Meyer. Lukumuena (who stole the spotlight in The Braves) and Depardieu create magic together onscreen as their characters gradually form a friendship, despite their obvious incompatibilities. Lukumuena plays Aïssa, a private security guard with aspirations of becoming a wrestler. She’s charged with looking after ageing actor Georges (Depardieu) who suffers from ennui and loneliness that he medicates with alcohol.
There’s an unspoken bond between the pair as they run lines together at Georges’s kitchen table, carried by the actors’ effortless performances. However, the script rarely explores their relationship on a deeper level. The result is a feature that meanders along its established status quo until it’s time for the credits to roll.
Lukumuena is once again the runaway star of the show. Though her performance is more subdued than in The Braves, her ability to convey a monologue’s worth of emotion with a slight change in expression and the glint in her eyes is still prevalent. Aïssa’s contemplative silence plays counterpoint to Georges’s lively, if somewhat overbearing presence. It’s in this clash of personalities that Meyer finds smart comic beats so understated that viewers may not realise that they’re watching a comedy until the strangeness of the scenario sinks in a few moments later.
Likewise, the leads’ onscreen chemistry soon gives way to close friendship. However, outside of a select few moments, the script doesn’t delve very deeply into it. A fittingly odd metaphor compares Georges to his pet anglerfish as a lonely, deformed, but beautiful creature, whilst Aïssa goes through the motions of an unfulfilling relationship; and that’s more or less it in terms of character exploration. Lacking in direction, the plot simply marches on in a listless fashion, which makes for an unsatisfying conclusion to a film about such an intriguing friendship.
While Robust won’t cause many ripples upon arrival, it serves as another example of rising icon Lukumuena’s seemingly endless talent.
Robust is released in select cinemas on 22nd July 2022.
Watch the trailer for Robust here: