The action then shifts to the gorgeous, sun-drenched Cap Ferret in the South West of France, where the friends congregate at the holiday home of Max (Francois Cluzet) and his wife (Valérie Bonneton). All is seemingly fine at first, but the growing discontentment of the group (fuelled partly by the guilt of leaving their friend in hospital) puts a strain on things, and what was once a playful, fun-loving dynamic and fun retreat begins to lose it lustre as secrets are revealed and relationships are tested.
Much like his directorial debut, Tell No One, actor-turned-filmmaker Guillaume Canet shows a real confidence behind the camera here. The opening scene is a masterclass in hand-held fluidity which would makes the likes of Brian De Palma green with envy, and he also shows considerable skill in juggling a talented ensemble. The group’s relationships to one another are well-handled and structured, and what you get is something akin to a French Cold Feet, albeit with an extremely handsome Gallic cast.
Cluzet (who has the look of a tall, younger version of Dustin Hoffman) is both a relatable, yet exasperating figure as the stressed-out, neurotic restaurant owner, who also has to content with the revelation that one of the married male friends has feelings towards him. The commitment-phobe Cotillaer (real-life partner to Canet) is also very strong here, and even if her character may come across as slightly shallow, she has a luminous screen presence which proves hard to keep your eyes off her. Gilles Lellouche (who, along with Cluzet, appeared in Tell No One,) is another standout as a fun-loving actor Eric, who is in denial about his relationship hitting the skids.
Although tensions between a number of the characters begin to bubble-up, this is a gentle and laid-back drama with the kind of inviting world which makes you wish you could step right through the cinema screen, into it. Crucially, it never descends into melodrama, and what you’re left with is a pleasant, picturesque look into the lives of these appealing characters. A great classic jukebox soundtrack (populated with the likes of Nina Simone and Creedence Clearwater Revival) can’t help but bring to mind those other middle-age soul-searching features from the past (The Big Chill, in particular) but nevertheless, the songs themselves really add to the surroundings, imbuing the film with a classy, timeless feel.
Canet’s only misstep is his reluctance to impose a tougher edit on the film, and at almost two and a half hours, it wouldn’t have hurt to trim a good 15/20 minutes off the total running time. This is a minor quibble however, and apart from the overlong and self-indulgent coda, the time spent in this environment almost justifies the film’s length.
Little White Lies will undoubtedly be pigeon-holed into the foreign arthouse category by some upon its UK release, but this is very much a mainstream drama for a mainstream audience and if the multiplex crowd could cast aside their unjustifiable aversion to subtitled films for once, they’d find much to enjoy here.