The Big Picture* Review

Film Still
  • The Big Picture film still


A weirdly exhilarating piece of soap opera that morphs into a serious study of art and self-discovery.

Paul (Romain Duris) wanted to be a photographer. Sarah (Marina Foïs) wanted a photographer. Instead, the married couple have settled uncomfortably in an affluent suburb of Paris, where Paul’s stuck in an office job and she’s found her dream man in the shape of their neighbour, Grég (Eric Ruf). Paul and Sarah are exhausted by who they’ve become – wealthy but lost, content but never happy, "losers who attract losers".

Then, one hungover morning, Paul confronts Grég over the affair. There’s a scuffle. A broken bottle finds its way into Grég’s neck, and Paul’s glossy, bloodless existence bursts suddenly into life. He steals Grég’s identity (including the dream job) and goes on the run. He’s a new man – quite literally.

The Big Picture relies less on character development than character revolution, but Romain Duris plays the diametric sides of the character so deftly that the break between one Paul and another (and one Grég and the other) feels natural, expected, even longed for. Paul, the suave family man flirting with the world, becomes Grég – an isolated, calm presence who realises that one terrible act has simultaneously taken away everything he had and given him everything he ever wanted.

The pacing of the second half of the film is, necessarily, a bit bumpy. Director Eric Lartigau emphasises Grég’s renewed interest in the world by slowing the editing to a crawl. After the speed of Paris, the long shots of his new country life are a jolt, but we need to learn to look at Grég’s world (rather than Paul’s) with him, through his camera lens. The move from crime thriller to bucolic drama is fairly quick, but it doesn't feel forced or hasty.

There’s a rather odd, Iñárritu-esque ending, but it doesn’t spoil anything. By that point, Paul and Grég have both become ciphers. The story has become about the work. The art becomes bigger than the artist. In a way, it always was.


There have been a few failed attempts at filming Douglas Kennedy’s book already, but Duris is a must-watch.



A weirdly exhilarating piece of soap opera that morphs into a serious study of art and self-discovery.


In Retrospect

Thoughtfully and skilfully done. Duris is superb.

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4 years ago
I think Romain Duris is great. He's got something really unpredictable and dangerous about him.

Anton Bitel

4 years ago
Really good review. One thing, though: I don't think that he 'goes on the run in Hungary' - rather, it's one of the countries from former Yougoslavia.
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