French actor-director Guillaume Canet returns with a lovely follow-up to his 2010’s ensemble drama
It’s hard to justify a European phenomenon to the U.S. market, but let’s put it this way: In 2010 Guillaume Canet’s ensemble drama, Little White Lies, was a Gallic hit, bringing over 5 million moviegoers to the cinema and the results in America were not the same.
The film (the story of a group of friends spending the summer together while one of them is hanging between life and death after an accident) was passionate, touching, but somehow heavy to meet everyone’s tastes.
There was Canet’s personal story behind the film and, 9 years after that, he needed to look at his life with a new perspective. That’s why it took so long to give a sequel to the original but a Little White Lies 2 (Nous Finirons Ensemble) has finally come and it hits Italian theaters today, September 12, 2019.
The film stars the same cast: François Cluzet, Gilles Lellouche, Marion Cotillard (Canet’s wife), Benoît Magimel, Laurent Lafitte, Pascal Arbillot and Clémentine Baert. Watching the first chapter (if you didn’t) is not mandatory, but useful.
In Little White Lies 2 Max, the restaurateur, is turning 60 and he’s dealing with personal and professional problems. As a consequence he decides not to celebrate his birthday explaining his new partner, Sabine, that he wants to spend some time alone (without telling her the details) in his Cap-Ferret beach house. This forced isolation is not meant to last: Max’s friends want to visit him for a surprise party even if they haven’t seen him for years, but things have changed since Ludo’s death. Eric is now a famous actor and a single father, Antoine (who basically didn’t grow up) works as his assistant, but he’s still looking for the chance of a lifetime; Vincent (who in the first film turns out to be gay) shows up with an older man while his ex-wife, Isabelle, is now a happy and independent woman looking for men on dating apps; Marie, once the idealist, is now the disillusioned of the group and also a single mother, who is still dealing with the pain caused by Ludo’s death.
The sequel to Little White Lies leaves behind a little bit of the darkness of its predecessor to give way to some genuine fun, but let’s be clear: the film deals with some substantial themes like the meaning of friendship, the end of youth, the struggles of adulthood. Our characters have all grown up (everyone, except Antoine) and they don’t start a fight with the impetuosity they had in the past, but some of them have to find new ways to face pain and resentment, in order to get a new lease on life and revive their long friendship. However, the light-hearted moments these friends share together are pure delight.
In some interviews, Canet explained that the first film was inspired by a personal event: years ago, the actor-director was hospitalized due to a serious infection and none of his friends came to visit him. Canet miraculously recovered and, after being released from the hospital, he wrote the film in 6 weeks: the screenplay mirrored his delusion, pain and anger. In Little White Lies 2 he is able to look at his life and his characters with distance, without being cold.
Again, the French actor-director questions himself and his audience about the meaning of relationships: are friends the ones who are always there for you? Antoine, the “kidult” of the group, gives an answer: “they are there when you need them”.
The only flaw of Little White Lies 2 is the length, 135 minutes, but keep in mind that the original was longer (154).
The sequel is a must-watch for different reasons: the kids are now part of the game (and their parents can’t ignore their presence in the house); Rodolphe Lauga’s collaboration as a screenwriter is essential to lighten the emotional burden that the characters carry with them and, last but not least, the chemistry among the actors is real.
Canet’s talent as a director is undeniable and his new work is deeper and more accurate. Also, this time he didn’t shoot the film in the middle of the summer, to visually give different colors to a new story. Music was an essential element in Little White Lies and it still is in the sequel: from Nina Simone to The Who, each song highlights a feeling, a state of mind. The cast is strong and it’s difficult to isolate a standout performance, but François Cluzet, Gilles Lellouche and Marion Cotillard deserve a special mention.