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Review: Little White Lies

After an hour and a half, the lights went up in the Ultimate Picture Palace. A rather abrupt ending, but not a totally unwelcome one. Then, the word ‘intermission’ flashed up onscreen, and ten minutes later we were back in our seats for another hour. It would probably have been a better film if it had been condensed into the time that the first half took.
Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies) was the highest-grossing French film of recent times, but it’s not entirely clear why. A wonderful performance from favourite actress Marion Cotillard certainly helps. There are some scenes that are really joyful, but these are scattered amongst scenes that drag, played out by unsympathetic characters.
It starts off in a nightclub. Ludo is blind drunk, causing a nuisance of himself all over the place, before finally jumping on a motorbike to head home. Bad idea – he gets knocked over by a lorry and next we see of him he’s in hospital in a coma, surrounded by his friends who love him, but not quite enough to cancel their impending holiday. In a cottage by the seaside, tensions reach melting point as relationships disintegrate, people go mad, and there’s a growing sense that it’s the absent joker Ludo who binds this group together, brings out the best in them, and without him they’re significantly less than the sum of their parts.
The only really nice character is Vincent, who’s also pretty weird: he confesses his undying love to his best friend Max just days before the holiday. The ensuing awkwardness is at times very funny, but also very sad. Other characters just don’t have so much claim for our sympathy, such as Antoine, who spends the whole time obsessing over the wording of texts to his ex-girlfriend, while others are not drawn out enough, like Isabelle, Vincent’s long-suffering wife, who we see mysteriously staring at a porn website, but whose emotions are never given expression.
There’s little plot, rather a collection of scenes, some of which are delightful and funny, others which just aren’t so interesting. They smoke a lot, swear a lot and break things when they get angry. With a little more joie de vivre all round this film could have made more of a compelling situation.

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