The Big Picture (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/07/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 114 mins

Engaging, unpredictable French thriller that's held together by a riveting central performance from Romain Duris, though it's slightly hampered by a frustrating final act.

What's it all about?
Directed by Eric Lartigau, The Big Picture (L’Homme qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie, original title fans) is based on a novel by Douglas Kennedy and stars Romain Duris (Heartbreaker) as Paul Exben, a loving family man and successful Paris lawyer who's about to be handed the firm by his terminally ill boss (Catherine Deneuve). However, Paul's blissful life is shattered when his wife Sarah (Marina Fois) suddenly asks for a divorce and he realises she's been having an affair with their cocky photographer neighbour, Gregoire Kremer (Eric Ruf).

When Paul confronts Gregoire with his knowledge of the affair, events spiral horribly out of control and Paul ends up accidentally killing him. Realising that his life of blissful luxury is over, Paul takes steps to steal Gregoire's identity before disposing of the body, faking his own death and moving to former Yugoslavia, where his new life gets an unexpected boost after he befriends drunken newsman Barthelme (Niels Arestrup) and meets a sexy photo editor (Big Love's Branka Katic).

The Good
Romain Duris is one of France's most charming and likeable actors and he's on top form here as Paul, generating strong chemistry with both Deneuve (their few scenes together are very touching) and Branka Katic. Duris' intense charisma ensures that he remains sympathetic throughout and there's also a genuine tension in his performance because you have no idea what he's going to do next.

The Big Picture plays out like a version of The Talented Mr Ripley spliced with The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, in that the thriller elements are largely downplayed in favour of a story about a man reinventing his life. That said, Lartigau is adept at creating suspense even when there's no real danger, so both Paul and the audience are constantly on edge, even when there's nothing wrong.

The Bad
The main problem is that the film starts to lose its way in the final act and the conclusion is less than satisfying as a result. It also never quite convinces on an emotional level – for example, it's hard to reconcile Paul's evident love of his children with the ease with which he gives them up; consequently, you're constantly expecting a scene where he tries to see them again, but it never comes.

Worth seeing?
The Big Picture is an enjoyable French thriller that's worth seeing for a typically superb performance from Romain Duris, though the plot is occasionally frustrating.

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Content updated: 24/04/2019 07:45

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