Every so often a film comes along which is hard to make your mind up about. It’s not that the film was middling, but that there were moments of absolute brilliance and moments where the energy diffuses into a tepid shallowness. This is the case with Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash (although the former wins out).
The film centres around a rock star on voice rest (Tilda Swinton) who, whilst on holiday with her boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts), is joined by her ex (Ralph Fiennes) and his estranged daughter (Dakota Johnson). This central premise of four characters with intricate relationships staying in such close proximity promises simmering tensions, suspicions and scandals, of which the film rather delivers.
The initial trailers seemed to show a film bursting with anarchic energy and vibrant emotion. The film itself doesn’t quite manage to sustain this tone, but definitely hits heights so high it makes you wish the rest of the film could live up to those moments. One particular highlight its Fiennes’ eclectic dance to the Rolling Stones’ Emotional Rescue, a vibrant and electric moment that sends a bolt of energy into the film.
Guadagnino’s direction is bold and intriguing and melds perfectly with the material. This, coupled with Yorick Le Saux’s striking cinematography, adds to the overall vivacious feel of the film. It also helps to give the film a lasting impact and you may take a look at yourself or others a little differently as you walk out of the screen.
The acting is brilliant across the board; the actors bringing the characters to life making their connections seem all the more real and increasing the intrigue. Fiennes is terrific as the erratic music producer, injecting the character with such vibrancy he elevates him being just a caricature. Swinton manages to communicate her characters every emotion despite being largely unable to speak. Johnson also melds into her character, proving she is much more capable than what she has been given to do before, yet sometimes seems to still emulate characteristics of her previous performances. Schoenarts is also excellent, however is not really given enough to do meaning his character sometimes fades against the vibrancy of his cast-mates’.
The tension sizzles over the course of the film as the characters’ relationships become increasingly complex and the suspicions begin to rise to the surface, however the uneven tone leads to the film running out of steam by its climax. As the tensions reach boiling point, the film doesn’t quite get the effect it seems to desire and the tension seems to dissipate rather than build.
Overall, the film is frequently brilliant, pulsating with an intoxicating energy that makes it slightly infuriating at the points when it loses momentum. However, we need more of these types of films that are ambitious and exciting, breaking through the moulds that most films seem to stick to, to bring this kind of dynamic burst of energy to the screen.