LITTLE WHITE LIES is a superb film from French writer/actor/director Guillaume Canet (TELL NO ONE.) It is laugh-out-loud funny; wryly observed and reduced me to tears. What more could one want?
In a bravura opening sequence, Ludo (the beautiful, hilarious Jean DuJardin) is horrifically injured in a motorcycle crash. We watch his close friends gather at the hospital, distraught, but convincing themselves that they should still take their summer holiday in Bordeaux. After all, Ludo is in intensive care, and they can do nothing for him. It's a marvelous scene and reminded me of Austen's opening in Sense and Sensibility where Mr and Mrs Dashwood reason their relatives out of a bequest, all the time reassuring themselves that they are doing what duty requires of them. The friends then proceed to Max and Veronique beautiful summer home, where their neuroses, romantic entanglements and narcissism will be exposed. Francois Cluzet is absolutely superb playing the stressed-out, up-tight successful businessmen, ruining his and everyone else’s holiday with his strict schedules and castigation of his staff. But Max has another reason to be stressed out – his long-time, very married, friend Vincent (Benoît Magimel) has told him he’s in love with him! Poor Vincent’s wife, Isavelle (Pascale Arbillot) has no idea, other than that her husband would rather binge on chocolate than sleep with her. And then there’s Marie (Marion Cotillard), a beautiful woman who may or may not be in love with the injured Ludo, but is also being stalked by a soft-hearted musician, who turns up unexpectedly at the house with a guitar and an atmosphere of awkwardness. And finally we have two single men - Éric (Gilles Lellouche) and Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) – the former denying he is in love, the latter desperately, delusionally, boringly so. All of this emotional indulgence is played out in sharp contrast to Jean-Louis (Joël Dupuch) – the proprietor of a local beach-side restaurant who has to listen to all these characters whining, all the time fulfilling their expectation of him to play the role of jovial provincial host.
LITTLE WHITE LIES is a long film that doesn’t feel long, because we’re immersed into the emotional lives of a large cast of characters, all of whom are slightly eccentric and yet very much rooted in real life. Maybe it’s the kind of people I hang out with, or the fact that I’m much the same age as many of these characters, but it felt as if Guillaume Canet had perfectly captured the way in which an old bunch of friends interact. I found myself laughing with them, rather than at them, willing them to succeed in their romantic games, and moved to tears by their tragedies. I left the cinema feeling like I’d had an emotional work-out but also sad to be leaving their company. And that, I think, is pretty much the best praise one can give a film – when it immerses you in a world that feels authentic and makes you glad to spend time there.
LITTLE WHITE LIES played Toronto 2010 and goes on release in France and Belgium on October 20th.