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The Big Picture

Do parents love the sound of a baby crying? When we first see Paul Exben, successful young Parisian lawyer, beginning his day, we’re struck by how perfect it all seems: beautiful wife, adorable children, gorgeous house. If only that baby would stop crying. And as Paul hits the treadmill for some early morning exercise, turning up the speed until it’s all he can handle, director Eric Lartigau lingers on his face, a rictus of grim determination that makes us wonder how much he actually likes this perfect life.

Adapted from an American novel by Douglas Kennedy, The Big Picture is the story of a man who gets a chance to erase the life he became trapped in and start anew. It has been compared to The Talented Mr. Ripley, which isn’t really appropriate: Paul isn’t a sociopath who commits murder to get ahead in life, but a man trying to deal with a bad situation that leaves another man dead. Assuming his identity and faking his own death, he escapes to a remote (if scenic) area of the former Yugoslavia to hide from his sins. Guilt and the pain of losing his family give way to boredom and Paul turns to an old hobby, photography, at which he once thought he could make a living. But fate has a way of granting our wishes at the most inappropriate times.

Deliberately paced to favor psychology over suspense, The Big Picture is an engrossing vehicle for Romain Duris, the actor best known in the US for The Beat That My Heart Skipped and L’Auberge Espagnole. While we’re never wholly made privy to Paul’s thoughts—does he really run for fear of ruining his children’s lives or out of simple self-preservation?—Duris’s guarded yet mobile face keeps us busy trying to figure him out, and emotionally involved with a character who shouldn’t be very easy to like.

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Watch the trailer for The Big Picture

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