The Big Picture

The Big Picture

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Artificial Eye

Release date: July 22nd, 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 115 minutes

Country of origin: France
Original language: French with English subtitles

Director: Eric Lartigau

Cast: Romain Duris, Marina Fois, Niels Arestrup, Catherine Deneuve, Eric Ruf

Based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy, The Big Picture is essential the story of a man who gets the life he always wanted but loses everything else he had before.

The man in question is Paul Exben (Romain Duris) who seems to have it all; he’s a successful lawyer with a beautiful wife, Sarah (Marina Foïs), and two sons and they live in a beautiful house. Although he wanted to be a photographer he chose law and it’s a profession that’s allowed him and his family to live very comfortably and without much to care or about.

The Big Picture (L'homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie)

That’s until Paul starts to suspect his wife is having an affair with a local photographer, Grégoire Kremer (Eric Ruf). As his anger starts to boil, his suspicions are confirmed when he meets Greg for a chat, but unable to hold back any longer, he lashes out at him with a beer bottle and his foolish actions results in murder.

Reluctant to inform the police or emergency services, Paul decides to cover up what he’s done. He hides the body and sends emails from Grégoire’s account informing people that he’s gotten a job overseas and has to leave immediately. This buys him some time to figure out the next move, but even the decision to fake his own death and assume Grégoire’s identity will haunt him and continue to have consequences no matter where he goes or the life he tries to build.

The Big Picture (L'homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie)

The Big Picture is a nail-biting thriller with a taut atmosphere and a very strong performance by Romain Duris as the charismatic lawyer who throws it all away to go on the run. Once on the run he becomes a much darker, lonelier character who’s prone to days of binge drinking, but the transition is seamless and credible. It’s almost as if his true nature has finally started to break through the façade of the family man we first met. This is of course apparent in the way he executes his intricate plan with acquiring a fake passport and explosives to help him shed the life that has now become a nightmare.

The Big Picture (L'homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie)

Exben is an antihero, reminiscent of Alain Delon’s Tom Ripley in Plein Soleil (1960), and though the story has some truly excellent moments, the climax at sea is what troubles me the most. The film deals heavily with the idea of second chances but doesn’t seem too concerned with the idea of moral consequences or justice.

Whether or not Paul deserves a second chance based on his actions and nature is something that doesn’t come into question and for this reason I found the film flawed in its reasoning despite a strong script and supporting cast that includes Niels Arestrup and Catherine Deneuve. In the end The Big Picture leaves you mostly with the idea that you can get away with murder if you really want to, rather it being something that’s wrong for reasons more than legally or morally.

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