Robust review – Depardieu in cantankerous comfort zone in odd-couple comedy

Here’s an odd-couple comedy drama about a grumpy, cantankerous old movie star called Georges (Gérard Depardieu), who is assigned a tough “minder” called Aïssa (Déborah Lukumuena) to look after him. Why does he need a security guard? Apparently, there’s a stalker issue (a pretty harmless-looking woman camps outside his apartment building) and he also seems to be the target of environmental activists.

Frankly, the premise for Aïssa’s presence in Georges’ life is a bit thin, and this looks as if it’s going to be a sentimental status-disparity movie like the French hit Untouchable, in which Omar Sy played a black caregiver for grumpy white paraplegic François Cluzet (recently remade with Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston). Actually, Robust is a bit more interesting than that and Depardieu and Lukumuena are both pretty robust in their various ways.

Director and co-writer Constance Meyer keeps the film alive by insisting on Aïssa’s independent parallel existence, quite aside from her work for Georges: she is a talented amateur wrestler who has a fierce friendship with fellow contender Cosmina (Megan Northam) and coach Adeline (Florence Janas) and has started a relationship with Eddy (Lucas Mortier), a guy at her gym, whom Cosmina thinks is a bit shallow and not worthy of her – a view which the increasingly demanding and possessive Georges comes to share.

Like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, he starts invading her non-work personal space. Good-natured, biddable Aïssa even runs Georges’ lines with him for a scene in his new movie which we see in a tense rehearsal sequence and then on the actual shooting day, when the dialogue about disappointment in life and love has an obvious melancholy significance. Maybe not a real stretch for Depardieu, but good work all around, especially from Lukumuena.

• Robust is released on 22 July in cinemas.