You plunge into the torpid summer atmosphere of this film from the opening moments. Tilda Swinton is rock star Marianne Lane, recovering in retreat on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria after a throat operation. She can’t speak for the whole summer, which is fine, as she’s mainly having sex with her hunky younger lover, played by Matthias Schoenaerts.
However, their holiday idyll is rudely interrupted by the self-invited arrival of Harry, a rock producer and former boyfriend of Marianne. A live wire of bluster and self-mythology, Harry has in tow a pretty young daughter he’s just discovered (Dakota Johnson) and their presence now triggers fizzes of unpredictable chemistry around the swimming pool.
Director Luca Guadagnino, who did the gorgeous Milanese family melodrama I Am Love, brings a sensuality and style to the table. Everyone’s handsome and cool, dressed in Dior and Raf Simons yet wearing their fashionability and easy urbanity lightly in these charming rustic surrounds.
Guadagnino skewers that sense of privilege very subtly, and from within. The wealthy bohemians’ transitory state is mirrored by the undercurrent of threat provided by the steady arrival on the island of a different sort of migrant, a stream of African refugees, some held in internment camps, some hiding in the scrubby hills.
When the wine, sun and sexual tensions get too much, the police and local islanders become involved and summer turns distinctly chilly.
A Bigger Splash**** builds its mysteries around the pool and hangs it stylishly on two grand performances in Tilda and Ralph, the former underplaying it with whispers and charisma, the latter having a ball in his own string pants and open shirt, at one memorable point rocking out to the Rolling Stones’ 1980 hit Emotional Rescue – who knew, but Ralph’s got the moves like Jagger.
I loved A Bigger Splash. It’s funny, seductive and dangerously indulgent. It made me want to go on holiday… and definitely not tell anyone where I am.
To listen to my podcast with Italian director Luca Guadagnino about A Bigger Splash click here.