French actor Romain Duris, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Mick Jagger, can’t get no satisfaction much of the time in the psychological thriller, “The Big Picture.”
As French attorney Paul Exben, he seems at first glance to have it all with a beautiful wife, two young children and a lucrative job. But as we soon learn, Paul’s still haunted over not following his photography muse in exchange for a comfortable but unfulfilling suburban lifestyle. His wife, Sarah (Marina Fois), resents him for selling out, as well as for inattentiveness and her writer’s block.
Making matters unbearable, she asks Paul for a divorce just as he discovers she’s having an affair with a contemptuous, struggling photographer who, unlike himself, followed his art.
After an unintended accident, Paul chooses to cover his tracks, flee and reinvent himself as the photographer he hoped to be under a different identity. At the same time, gripped by the pain of leaving his children behind, the stress and strain of concealing secrets goes into overdrive after the sudden photographic success he could once only have dreamed about risks blowing his cover.
The film, based on a book by Douglas Kennedy and directed by Eric Lartigau, follows Paul through the streets of Paris, beaches in the Balkans and a life-and-death struggle on the stormy Adriatic Sea. Duris, who was riveting several years ago in “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” casts a striking presence as the epitome of hip, upper-class success who chooses a spartan existence in the shadows.
The moments that hit Paul hardest – saying goodbye to his son and daughter, the stray conversation that lays bare his wife’s infidelity – are as emotionally laden as the black-and-white photograph he carries around as the lone reminder of his kids.
The film isn’t without its problems – it’s necessary to suspend credulity over Paul’s crackerjack skill set as a criminal, and the ending feels tacked on and a bit of a cop-out. But “The Big Picture” packs enough suspense and existential angst to grab and hold the viewer’s attention, while exploring the perennial question of how much one should risk to recapture what was lost.
“You’re free as the wind,” Paul says to a client early in the film. How simple, he must have thought, that advice had sounded.