A Bigger Splash, is a film equal parts thriller, drama and erotica, and yet has an underlining humour that brings each element together. Loosely based on Jacques Deray’s La Piscine (1969) and directed by Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (I am Love), Splash is a dangerous and seductive journey that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
Marianne (Tilda Swinton), a famous rock star, is on vocal rest and has retired to a Mediterranean island with lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), to heal while on a romantic getaway. Their paradise is soon interrupted though with the arrival of Marianne’s old flame, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), and his daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson), who more often than not is mistaken for his girlfriend. With cloudy intentions, Harry soon starts gravitating around his old lover, while Penelope has her sights on Paul. While the sexual tension increases and buried secrets of the past are exposed, the four will find that there’s much more at stake than just betrayal.
The casting choices here are a real draw for the film, with some against-type casting, yet this ultimately adds new depth to both story and characters. Swinton (Trainwreck) is superb in a role that leaves her mostly silent, showing off just how masterful she is in front of a camera. Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl) stands his ground though, and plays well opposite Swinton to the point that their chemistry almost ruins other combinations as the couples twist and change. Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) adds this to a long list of top rate performances, reveling in the vulgarity and intensity of his verging on sexual predator character. Lastly is Johnson (Black Mass), who seems much more satisfied in this role than that of her Fifty Shades counterpart, and gets to stretch her acting chops against some heavy hitters.
While riding on subtext and subtle nuances, Splash finds that there’s a little bit too much going on to keep everything nicely contained and packaged. The film barely dives into the homoerotic connection between the characters of Paul and Harry, which is merely hinted at and instead left as a rather wasted opportunity for what was otherwise an erotic free-for-all. Guadagnino also makes some interesting choices with a few fairly in your face musical choices, as well as cinematography that at times can be verging on odd if not amateurish, yet it seems more likely these choices were made by an informed filmmaker and didn’t necessarily translate to it’s audience.
Still, for an interesting watch, A Bigger Splash should satiate its viewers needs through either thrills or flesh.