Luca Gaudagnino’s chilling tale of maddening love is a movie unlike any other you’ve seen this year. An interpretation of sorts of the 60’s sexual thriller, La Piscine, Gaudagnino packs a stellar cast together onto a secluded island where sexual tension, deviousness, and insanity force our ensemble to perform a wicked, subtle, slow-moving dance that leads towards a tumultuous meltdown.
The basic premise follows a legendary rock star (played by Tilda Swinton) who’s recovering from a terrible voice mishap with her boyfriend (Schoenaerts) in a secluded Italian island when suddenly Swinton’s ex (Fiennes) decides to swoop in with his daughter (Johnson) and make the meditative recovery into an absurd, awkward vacation in which he will try to break up a relationship he helped form. From the moment Ralph Fiennes walks in and the camera turns to a look of annoyed tolerance from Schoenaerts you know everything is going downhill from there. And though whilst you’re watching the first two-acts of this film you might say nothing is really happening, but once that last act hits and certain revelations are uncovered, the film proves to be a remarkable experience. Though the ending is as satisfying as when the detective in a noir film uncovers the mystery, the weird thing is, A Bigger Splash’s ending does the complete opposite because since you already know what happened, the finale hands you another mysterious component to the story that makes sense with the way the story panned out.
As for the acting, we know at least three of the ensemble members are fantastic actors, but Dakota Johnson really surprised me. Playing a coy, mean-spirited yet naive individual, Johnson carries her ambiguous motivations towards the end of this film and never over-plays the slimy persona she represents. As for the rest, they’re always great in any movie, Ralph Fiennes brings his A-game as he does for every project he’s involved with, Schoenaerts, like Johnson, also plays a very mysterious character when it comes to motivation and morality. This factor is specially great because it keeps from sticking to a side and constantly questioning every action each character takes. Last but not least, Tilda Swinton does something really bold as most of her acting revolves around her expressions since she can’t really speak for the film’s entirety.
A Bigger Splash also has a lush look to it for the first two acts before it changes to a much more dreary color palette for the ending. Yorick Le Saux, who curiously also shot the another pool-side thriller in 2003 really knows how to portray the life present on the Italian bay-side. If I had to single out any negatives I’d have to say there are some things that seem cut down due to budgetary reason where the scene suddenly cuts and you’re forced to assume how a certain thing the ensemble is conversing about just occurred. And there’s this minor thread-line that focuses and immigrants trying to get to Europe that feels like a last minute thing that doesn’t anything whatsoever to the viewing experience.
All in all, A Bigger Splash is an incredibly interesting thriller dealing with love, annoyance and tolerance. The performances are great all-around, especially from Dakota Johnson, which gets me for excited for the upcoming Suspiria remake involving her and Gaudagnino. The film looks beautiful and though some things are left in mid-air or others get way too much attention, A Bigger Splash is worth the watch as it is a devious, slow-burning thriller that plays on emotions and possible manipulation of sorts between our slew of characters.