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Cinema: Review - Romain Duris in The Big Picture

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Directed by Eric Lartigau
Certificate 15

Rating: 5 Out Of 5 Stars

GIANT chains lying idle at a harbour, with looming hulls above, dockers in oil-smeared orange overalls and Samuel Beckett-style smokers’ faces crouching on their haunches, staring at the camera.

An Adriatic port, with higgledy-piggledy slums rising up a picturesque mountainside, a strange clash of industry and nature – it is around half way through this intense French movie that viewers will realise they are not simply enjoying a very well made thriller but actually sitting in front of a work of brilliant contemporary cinematic art. 

Based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy, this film is not just a tragic love story and a thriller, it is also about the creation of a self, the making of an identity, and how we as individuals view ourselves and our place in the age that we live. 

It is hard to write too much about this film without cramming a review full of spoilers.

We start by meeting our lead, a successful, thoughtful, handsome Parisian lawyer called Paul Exben in his nice house with beautiful wife and gorgeous children. 

He has all the trappings of success: he dotes on his family, and is clearly a good lawyer – we watch at the start as he dispenses advice that makes him appear mature, well beyond his years, to a young heir to a fortune.

His firm’s partner, Catherine Deneuve, whose appearance is an early tell-tale indication of the sheer quality of this film, we discover is ill and wants to sign over the entire company to her young friend. It is an opportunity that will set him up for life, so what could possibly go wrong?

Soon it becomes clear that all is not rosy at home: his wife is not happy, and the tensions between the couple are writ large in the opening scenes.

Suffice to say, something terrible, accidental, dramatic, happens that will change their lives forever, and sets us up for an extremely tense couple of hours.

Paul (Romain Duris) is an amateur photographer, as is the other main male lead. 

This gives director Eric Lartigau the chance to create some stunning frames, with our characters given a stage to play out the well-observed relationships and the terrible choices our lead has to make. 

I imagine once this film does great box office – and it certainly deserves to – it will have a glossy Hollywood makeover with a big-name lead and reappear in a different guise in a year or two. 

Nothing wrong with that – but they will have their work cut out to better this haunting story that has been so expertly told.  

Published: 21 July, 2011


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