Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Film review by Colin Lomas
World famous singer Marianne Lane (Swinton), temporarily mute from a recent throat operation, is enjoying a relaxing holiday with her doting film-maker boyfriend Paul De Smedt (Schoenaerts) on a remote idyllic Italian island. Much to their initial annoyance, Lane’s manic music producer and ex-boyfriend Harry Hawkes (Fiennes) turns up with his newly discovered daughter Penelope (Johnson) to gate-crash the tranquillity.
A Bigger Splash is a character development masterclass by Guadagnino. Over the first hour, the film gives everything to build up the intricacies of each character’s attributes so that every subsequent variation and elaboration feels exhilarating. This is a film about people and relationships; how different associations can sometimes coalesce yet at other times grate, how secrets and history must awkwardly co-exist with the fantasies of perfection.
Fiennes is simply superb. He absolutely nails Hawkes extrovert nature, perfectly mixing it with the selfish dark underbelly which success invariably requires. Swinton marvellously continues to build her rapidly emerging reputation with a multifaceted character that says less than a hundred words throughout the entire running time. Both Schoenaerts and Johnson are solid but are unluckily eclipsed by Fiennes and Swinton’s sparkle. In fact, such is Fiennes utter dominance early on, there feels a distinct possibility he will overshadow not only the other actors, but the film itself.
Fortunately, as time passes the rest of the cast get their chance in the sun and, to their credit, pull it back just before it becomes the Ralph Fiennes Show.
The friction between De Smedt and Hawkes is always at the forefront; the protective grounded boyfriend against the vociferous music producer ex. Hawkes tempts Lane to speak at the dinner table, De Smedt knocks him back, Hawkes dances to a track he produced for the Rolling Stones, De Smedt pulls Lane closer on the sofa. It’s the subtle fragments of both loving and sexual tension which keep the flow of A Bigger Splash so thrilling.
When the plot eventually makes its move, sides are taken, suspicions are rife, relationships are both strained and solidified. Only then do you realise just how well the film has branded its characters into your hide, and how much you are desperate to know the outcome.
Until the last half hour or so not much really happens in A Bigger Splash but you simply don’t notice, such is the utter delight in watching a great cast develop complex characters with a wonderfully astute script.