A brilliant actor Guillaume Canet has brought us a magnificent directorial follow up to his 2006 film Tell No One. Little White Lies is written and directed by Canet and he has done a wonderful job of creating real relationships on the screen amongst this group of fine actors. Only a director who has been an actor himself can appreciate how to get the best performances from them and this film is a gem combining low key French style with humour in the USA groove.
From the heart stopping opening sequence you are totally gripped. Canet has assembled an amazing cast to bring life to his portrait of a group of friends who through the years have fought, loved, laughed and holidayed with each other.
Every summer Max, a rich restaurant owner, and Véro his wife, invite a group of friends to their beautiful beach house with their children. This year, before they all leave Paris, a traumatic event occurs which leaves one of the group (Ludo played by Jean Dujardin) excluded and which sets off a dramatic chain of reactions and emotional responses when the rest of them decide to go away to enjoy themselves. Their relationships, convictions, sense of guilt and friendship are sorely tested. They are finally forced to own up to the “little white lies” they’ve been telling each other.
Guillaume’s choice of music for his soundtrack sets a tone of Americana and long summer days; he admits that The Big Chill was a strong influence on his idea for the feel of this film. This is a very personal movie for Guillaume; not least because he cast his partner (and soon to be mother of his child) Marion Cotillard as Marie. As he was finishing work on Tell No One he got sick and had some therapy; his soul searching and talks with a friend about his ideas for the plot helped him recover. How important his friends are and how he feels about them is very apparent in the characters he has created. He says “writing the script of Little White Lies got quite painful because it dug so deep into personal experiences and made me relive so many emotions” – and it is an emotional film.
It’s hard to focus on any one character or actor because they worked so well together but Francois Cluzet as Max gives a pitch perfect run as the oldest member of the group; when weasels invade his house he deals with it in a very Larry David way and his reaction to a revelation by Vincent (Benoit Magimel – reminiscent of a blond Robert De Niro) is hilarious and sore. Jean-Louis, a local (played by a real oysterman Joel Dupuch), provides the conscience of the group and he knows more about them than they will admit to themselves. Everyone is lying to himself, herself and to each other; no one is being a true friend as they seek to hide themselves from the rest of the group.
This film makes you feel nostalgic, you feel part of this group, and you want to be part of this group; not because they are all amazing looking with great lives but because they are real and truthful and human. They have fun and love and laughter amongst them. Although Ludo is not with them he is very much present in a way, the missing piece of them. This is a very funny film indeed full of the sort of antics only close friends can get away with. As to be expected maybe the female parts are underwritten but the writer is a man and a lot of his material is admittedly autobiographical.
The relationships within this group feel genuine, comfortable and close. The tragedy and revelations and upsets throughout the film only serve the truthfulness of it but the laughs really do stay with you. This is a film worth more than one watch.