A Bigger Splash | Film review - Smouldering melodrama finds Swinton & Fiennes in flamboyant form

A Bigger Splash Ralph Fiennes Tilda Swinton.jpg
(Image credit: Jack English)

Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes are on flamboyant, imperious form in A Bigger Splash, a smouldering melodrama set in a sun-scorched villa on the volcanic Sicilian island of Pantelleria.

Swinton is Marianne, a stadium rock star hiding out there with her younger filmmaker partner Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) while she recuperates from an operation on her vocal chords. And Fiennes is her former lover Harry, the brash, roiling, larger-than-life figure who invades her retreat with his newly discovered American daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) in tow. Soon enough, desires and jealousies are simmering in the Mediterranean haze.

Eerie languor and sun-baked hedonism

Reuniting Swinton with Italian director Luca Guadagnino, maker of 2009’s lush romance I Am Love, A Bigger Splash is a remake of Jacques Deray’s 1969 film La Piscine, which found Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Maurice Ronet and Jane Birkin similarly entangled in the south of France. There’s a nod, too, in the film’s title to David Hockney’s celebrated 1967 painting.

Guadagnino’s movie shares with them a mood of eerie languor and sun-baked hedonism. Which makes the disruptive energy provided by Fiennes’ exuberant and garrulous interloper all the more startling. Swinton makes a worthy foil for him, nearly mute for half the film but vitally expressive all the same.

Certificate 15. Runtime 124 mins. Director Luca Guadagnino

"Ice queen Tilda melts in passionate Italian melodrama" Read the review of I Am Love


Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.