A Bigger Splash is a feast of erotic volatility. It is endlessly unpredictable and often uncomfortable, but at the same time it manages to be incredibly entertaining. Tilda Swinton plays a stadium-filling rock star, Marianne Lane, whose lost her voice and finds herself recovering on the beautiful and remote Italian island of Pantelleria with her boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). This could be one of those films that just “looks gorgeous” but it’s so much more than the exquisite scenery. Marianne and Paul’s holiday is interrupted by the arrival of an old friend, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), an eccentric and somewhat unstable record producer who shares a complicated relationship with Marianne and an even more unsettling relationship with his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson), a relationship which is so long left unsettlingly ambiguous.
All the performances are magnificent, particularly Swinton and Fiennes. Having lost her voice, Swinton’s performance is dense and captivatingly cinematic, oozing the understated charisma you’d expect from a character so beautiful and talented. It’s sexually unstable, featuring unsettling power dynamics between the four characters, culminating in some unforgettable moments around swimming pools. Fiennes crafts a charismatic, flamboyant character who also happens to make you feel deeply uncomfortable in his presence. Director Luca Guadagnino magnificently blends comedy with shocking twists, and that’s just Fiennes’ dance moves. It turns in directions you don’t expect, whilst skilfully playing with expectations.
Review by David Rank
A Bigger Splash is out now in the UK. Rating 15 (UK). Running time 124 mins.