Retro Movie Review: 'The Big Picture' (2010)

Psychologically taxing and impressively acted, “The Big Picture” is a sensationally enthralling French film based on the identically titled novel by Douglas Kennedy. Opening up with a baby’s cries, the film introduces us to Paul (Romain Duris), a loving family man and prominent attorney in Paris.

Lethal consequences ensue when he learns of his wife’s infidelity, and life-altering decisions soon envelop his existence. Directed with searing authenticity by Eric Lartigau, the scenario that takes place is credibly presented, and the subsequent choices that must be made are crushingly visceral.

Adding to the atmosphere is the arresting performance of lead Romain Duris, who captivates as the film’s sympathetic protagonist, nailing every moment of biting tension. He intensely portrays Paul’s dread and the weight of his circumstance as he tries to surmount a life-depleting event. As marvelous as Duris was in his comedic role in 2010’s “Heartbreaker,” he is equally brilliant playing out this film’s heavy drama.

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and this film is worth a thousand questions. There is nothing blatantly spoon-fed in the script of this thriller. It relies on heady restraint that summons deeper thought than other films with similar premises have accomplished. The decisions that Paul makes are haunted by emotional gravity and cerebral elusiveness. Many interpretations can be gleaned, and those are the ‘whys’ that make one wonder.

The film evokes several inferences. One based on the initial viewing that swirls with the clouded enrapture of what is being taken in for the first time. The other plays in hindsight, the observational queries abounding as to alternate decisions that could’ve been made. There are philosophical questions that linger as well. Whether Paul’s analysis of what his actions mean for his two young sons is more telling of his own mindset than his children’s.

The construction of the wife’s character is left shallow. Understanding the motivations for her actions and blatant disregard for her family is left frustratingly underwritten. That is, if you approach the film in the classical sense. It aims to draw viewers into Paul’s perspective, and he is left to ask the same questions with no answers.

While films like “Unfaithful” have focused on the wife’s betrayal and gone to excellent links to bring viewers into the voyeurism of seeing how it plays out away from the husband’s watchful eye. “The Big Picture” is about the unknown and how those indiscretions can toy with the mind with cruel vigor.

As the film engrosses for nearly 2 hours, the open-ended conclusion surprises. At first bewildering, it takes some time to shake off the initial shock. There are numerous interpretations one could derive from it. After considering things, it felt right. When the film opens, it is with a subtly mundane glimpse into the day of its main character.

The journey and happenstances witnessed henceforth are naturally unraveled. When the glimpse ends, so does the film. “The Big Picture” must be assessed as a snapshot, a moment, rather than the whole story. Rating: 7.3/10