Glasgow Film Theatre, 17.04.11
A big hit in France last year, it says a lot about the attitude of UK multiplex chains, and the disinterest of the British audience for foreign language films that in Glasgow Little White Lies is not showing in the city’s 18-screen multiplex, whose screens are occupied with multiple showings of the Easter holiday, kid-friendly Hop and Rio and teen-lite nonsense such as the awful Your Highness, Fast Five and Arthur (three films that could be used nicely to sum up the torrid depths Hollywood cinema seems happy to plunge to). Thankfully, the GFT provides, as always, an excellent alternative, and a nicer environment, in which to take in this enjoyable drama.
Despite a serious accident involving their friend Ludo (Jean Dujardin), a group of friends decide to go ahead with their annual vacation without him, at the seaside home of Max (Francois Cluzet). There, they enjoy the sea, sand and sunshine, but as two weeks pass, their relationships develop as each learns more about themselves and their friends, and the little white lies they all tell to one another.
Despite the serious injuries that leave Ludo in a coma in a Paris hospital, the group have plenty of fun, and although this can jar – surely, if they cared so much for one another, they would be at his bedside – it does lead to genuine, laugh out loud comedy, occasionally bordering on farce, and coupled with the holiday feel and beautiful scenery, the film is easy to enjoy. Cluzet, as Max, particularly delivers some great moments as his over-stressed, control freak personality is tipped over the edge when long time friend, Vincent (Benoit Magimel) declares his love for him. Unable to know how to respond, Max takes his temper out on invading weasels, his friends and their children. Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) also provides laughs as he tries to deal with a recent break up, and Marion Cotillard is exquisite as Marie, Ludo’s ex-girlfriend who is struggling to find fulfillment in life.
A criticism of the film could be made as the tone veers from all this French frolicking to the terminal injuries that have stricken Ludo, and his death provides the denouement as everyone gathers for his funeral. Each friend gets to speak at the side of his coffin, and this scene feels too forced and unnatural alongside what has gone before, not helped by the fact that it comes after 150 minutes – the film feels like it could do with 15 minutes trimmed off. On the other hand, Ludo’s fate casts a shadow over all the fun the friends have, and provides the motivation for all to think about their situation and where they have come to in life.
But these are only minor quibbles in a good film. Guillaume Canet is wise enough to let his delightful cast have their moments, perhaps the only downside being that Dujardin, so brilliant in the OSS 117 films, is rendered bed ridden so early, thus robbing us of seeing his considerable talent being added to the ensemble. Still Cotillard and Cluzet are magnificent, as are all the leads.
Together with his debut feature, the thriller Tell No One (2006) also starring Cluzot), Canet is definitely a director to expect more from in the future, combining the French flair for intelligent, though-provoking cinema, alongside genuine entertainment. If only more people in this country would, like the French cinema going audience, embrace such a combination.
Film rating: 4 out of 5.