A Bigger Splash, directed by Luca Guadagnino is a film that drops you without warning into a group of people and their very different lives. This is a film that is bustling with 4 very different people, who all in themselves are fascinatingly engaging to watch. A bigger Splash is filled with character after character that all hold your attention, but it is also has an unspoken darkness within it, it’s subtle but it’s always there, and it’s not until it’s too late that you fully notice it. These elements and more A Bigger Splash a film that lavishes itself in watch-ability.
Marianne Lane – played by Tilda Swinton, and Paul De Smedt – played by Matthias Schoenaerts, are a couple who escape on a vacation to Italy – the difference for them however, is that Marianne is a famous rock star and Paul is a talented filmmaker, and so any chance at privacy and peace is welcome. Things are of course disrupted when Harry Hawkes – played by Ralph Fiennes – an old and slightly crazy friend from the past shows up with his daughter Penelope – played by Dakota Johnson – to turn everything on its head.
So undoubtedly A Bigger Splash is a film that is all about its characters. The film is very light on a plot of real significance, and when it does end up focusing more on a particular plot point it actually detracts from the flow of the quality of the film (I’ll dive more into that in a bit though).
I from the very beginning of the film was entranced by the diverse characters on offer and how they interacted. Each one is their own VERY different person and they are people who you wouldn’t necessarily peg as the type of people to spend time together. For example Ralph Fiennes’s (who I must add is certainly the scene stealer of the film in the best way possible) character is someone who has stepped out of the sanity line and moved over to the lunatic one, and when you put him next to Matthias Schoenaerts character, a troubled man who very much wants to stay within his work and enjoy the peace of it, you get scenes that instil intrigue and entertainment. The interactions between two people as different as they are shouldn’t work (tonally) and yet it’s joyous and uncomfortable (in a good way) to watch them manoeuvre around each other’s underlying psychoses.
What was also interesting about the characters in the film was how some unusual or interesting characteristics were utilised and then played out within the film. Tilda Swinton’s character for example is an aged rocker who has lost her voice and so for pretty much the whole film can’t talk, apart from a slight whisper every so often. This means not only some expressive acting from Swinton (you’re reliant on watching her and won’t get much at all from her struggled speech) but that her status within a scene plays out very different, now that she is affected in this way. The film layers in things that make a simple film much more than it is and it’s great.
A Bigger Splash is also a film that plays the long game. With you being dropped into what is an already well established group of people in the middle of very well lived lives, means you’re almost playing catch up, but somehow I never felt left out or lost, and that’s because of how the film over time reveals tid bits of information that expand on who they are. Structurally the film either through flash backs or in the moment conversations would let us know the things that made the characters tick. It would also at times utilise subtle little shots within a scene to tell us information – whether that’s a quick glance at a characters facial reaction during a conversation or it’s a quick shot of a certain thing that reveals something more about what the characters themselves are hiding within (a glance at a bottle of wine for instance). This is a film that is filled with charactery goodness.
Now with so much character (I’ve really said that word a lot haven’t I?) it means that A Bigger Splash isn’t in the need of a large story line (or at least I didn’t feel it was). So it was disappointing when in the latter half of the third act it all of a sudden felt like it did. The film takes a turn and begins to focus on a particular development in the story (one that I wasn’t really a fan of) and then decides to see out the rest of the film by focusing entirely on it. This absolutely kills the momentum of the films finale. A Bigger Splash becomes about something that it didn’t need to be about – it changed its identity at the end and I don’t know why. It means that the film ends with an anti-climax. I was entranced by the characters for the whole film, and then at the end it had to go and ruin it. I didn’t get any poignant or suitable pay off to these characters – instead I was left wanting.
For me A Bigger Splash came so close to being a brillinatly on-point film. I fell in love with the characters, I fell in love with the world they inhabit and I fell in love with what was simple but effective story telling. Now it does drop off at the end and that’s really sad but it still doesn’t take away from what is still a good film.
I will happily recommend A Bigger Splash. A film that was simply an engaging and thoughtful watch – it’s not a film that’s going to get much attention right now (which is a shame) so make sure to give it a watch.
So what are your thoughts on A Bigger Splash? Are you interested in seeing it? Let me know in the comments down below. To keep up on my others reviews you can always follow me on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. All that’s left to say is thank for taking the time to read this and I hope you have yourself a good week.