The Big Picture - DVD Review
Review by Jack Foley
ERIC Lartigau’s The Big Picture is a French adaptation of a popular US novel that consistently intrigues thanks to a commanding central performance and some fascinating moral and ethical dilemmas.
As much a tale of identity and re-invention as it is a thriller, Laritgau’s film shares plenty in common with The Talented Mr Ripley as well as Antonioni’s The Passenger.
When bored lawyer Paul (Romain Duris) accidentally kills his wife’s lover following a heated exchange, he decides to adopt his love rival’s identity, fake his own death and begin a new life for himself away from his wife and children.
Moving from Paris to Montenegro, he subsequently starts to revive his passion for photography and slowly makes a name for himself, all the while aware that over-exposure could bring his past back to ruin everything.
Based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy, The Big Picture is a film that poses all sorts of questions and dilemmas, some of which are answered and some of which are left to viewers to decide.
Yet thanks to Duris’ layered, sympathetic portrayal of Paul, it presents an anti-hero who remains as emotionally complex as he is endlessly fascinating.
Yes, he is a murderer… but how much intent went into the killing is open to interpretation. Similarly, should he be made to pay for his newfound happiness, especially in light of the fact he has been forced to give up everything?
Larigiau’s film therefore simultaneously works as a fascinating character study that poses questions of fate, being true to oneself and new beginnings, as well as an often tense thriller of the ‘will he get away with it?’ variety (much like Ripley, but without the sinister edge).
And just when you think you have the measure of it, the director throws in an unexpected twist towards the end that takes the film into an altogether different direction.
Of the performances, this is principally Duris’ movie as he occupies every scene. But he’s absolutely riveting – by turns ruthless, calculated, yet haunted by the mistakes of the past and a desire to set himself free. His body language, his posture and his inner turmoil all contribute to making Paul a highly complex character whose actions are understandable even if they cannot be condoned.
There’s notable support, too, from the likes of Catherine Deneuve as his boss (brief but effective) and Niels Arestrup, as a newspaper editor with a penchant for probing people’s pasts, as well as Marina Fois and Branka Katic as the women in Paul’s life.
All of which makes The Big Picture a highly recommended identity thriller that keeps you gripped and guessing until the very end. Don’t be surprised if an American remake is announced in the not-too-distant future either.
In French, with subtitles
Running time: 114mins
UK DVD Release: January 9, 2012