Little White Lies
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 18th September 2011
A daring, long, one-shot opening scene in Little White Lies draws us straight into the gritty Parisian lives of a photogenic cast in this chamber piece of secrets, guilt and repressed angst. A Big Chill for the modern age (and his most personal film yet), it proves once again that Guillaume Canet, actor, writer and director of quality French drama such as Tell No One, has talent in spades.
Gathered at the hospital bedside of their critically injured friend Ludo, Max (Francois Cluzet in possibly a career best) convinces the gang not to forgo an annual retreat to his holiday home. There is the luminous Marie (Marion Cotillard) with her many lovers and seemingly carefree attitude; sleazy, well-meaning Eric; whiny Antoine who pines for his ex; and earnest Vincent, whose passion is for someone other than his wife. They arrive at the country idyll, baggage-laden with forced smiles, and slowly the mysteries unfold and recriminations begin to fly.
Canet had his cast live together on set in the days before filming, and the effect is very much of watching a gathering of old friends, who are at ease with one another but distinctly ill at ease in themselves. Theirs is a tangled, interweaving web of relationship and the slow unfolding of confusion, confession and unexpected revelations evokes Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies. Eschewing French melodrama’s penchant for slapstick but still retaining a wry sense of humour, the very long running time is justified by the film being absorbing from beginning to emotional end.