The Big Picture [L'Homme qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie] Review
By Rich Cline
An intriguing variation on The Talented Mr Ripley, this French dramatic thriller holds our attention mainly because of the hugely engaging Romain Duris. The plot is a little loose and fragmented, but we can't take our eyes off him.
Paul (Duris) is a successful Paris lawyer living in suburban bliss with his wife Sarah (Fois) and two lively sons (Cacote and Antic). But just as his boss (Deneuve) offers him the chance of a lifetime, Sarah pulls the rug out by asking for a divorce. So Paul confronts the man (Ruf) he holds responsible, and this starts a dizzying journey as Paul makes a series of decisions that change his life completely. Along the way he meets a drunken newsman (Arestrup) and a sexy editor (Katic) who spark even more unexpected actions.
The film is so tightly centred on Paul that a lot of what happens seems not to make sense, simply because we don't have the whole picture, as it were. This is either because Paul doesn't know the details or because he's hiding them, and the result is that we can't help but sympathise with him even when he does something that seems inexplicable.
Duris is amazing in the role, holding our attention tightly even though he's far from the typical leading man. We feel every pang of emotion, fear, anger and resignation. And like him, we don't always like what happens. Meanwhile, director-cowriter Lartigau keeps the atmosphere taut, but never over-eggs it.
So the intensity is sharply heightened by extended sequences in which there seems to be no threat at all.
As it continues, the script folds in a continual sense of irony and fate, as if Paul is destined for something that he has no control of, even as past events continually circle back around him in unexpected ways. To say any more would be to give away several very clever plot turns. They're not exactly surprises and they don't always hold water, but the way the film keeps us constantly guessing what Paul (and the filmmakers) will do next is thoroughly entertaining.
Facts and Figures
Production compaines: EuropaCorp
Cast & Crew
Producer: Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
Screenwriter: Laurent de Bartillat, Eric Lartigau