A Bigger Splash

Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(35user reviews)
A Bigger Splash

Ralph Fiennes steals the latest melodrama from Tilda Swinton and 'I Am Love' director Luca Guadagnino

Ralph Fiennes follows his devilishly comic performance in 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' with an equally hilarious turn in this Italian set, mostly English-language playful and highly strung melodrama from Luca Guadagnino ('I Am Love'). The film is a remake of the 1969 French film ‘La Piscine’ and it's an endearingly loopy, occasionally half-cooked but always ambitious film about middle-aged characters touched by fame and success, who live in a bubble so decadent that they might get away with murder if they tried.

'I Am Love' star Tilda Swinton reteams with Guadagnino as Marianne, a Bowie-like rock star who's recovering from a throat op – meaning Swinton spends most of the film silent or whispering, lending her a vulnerability we’ve rarely seen until now. Marianne is spending the summer in a villa on an Italian island with her younger boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts, moody and hard to read) when her ex Harry (Fiennes) turns up out of the blue with his newly discovered 22-year-old daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson) in tow. He calls Penelope a 'lovely bit' and soon Marianne is warning him that people might get the wrong idea.

Fiennes's Harry, a music biz veteran, is a nightmare guest to rival Ben Kingsley's Don in 'Sexy Beast'. You can't take your eyes off this livewire, full of energy, stories and confidence. He dominates every second of the day, and Fiennes has a film-stealing scene as he dances open-shirted in the villa's living room lip-synching to the Stones' 'Emotional Rescue'. Old resentments and attractions bubble up, new ones emerge and Guadagnino throws us into a storm of food, music, talk and sexual tension. Before long, a black cloud arrives to block out the sun and stop dead the humour like a needle being kicked off a record player.

As in 'I Am Love', Guadagnino lets rip with bold music, delivers stylistic flourishes that don't always come off and plunges us into the trials and tribulations of a very fashionable beau monde. It's an uneven film and its later, darker moments don't always feel well earned. Occasional allusions to a crisis of illegal immigrants on the island feel awkward and the portrayal of the Italian police is flippant. But this is often a seriously fun film with a shadier side that's ripe for unpicking when the curtain drops.

Release details

Release date:
Friday February 12 2016
120 mins

Cast and crew

Luca Guadagnino
David Kajganich
Ralph Fiennes
Dakota Johnson
Tilda Swinton

Average User Rating

3.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:12
  • 3 star:13
  • 2 star:7
  • 1 star:1
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1 of 1 found helpful

Too much nakedness and shagging going on to be honest. A little less body parts and more of a storyline would have been appreciated. Certainly will not be recommending this movie to anyone. Don't go see it!

1 of 1 found helpful

Very disappointing the film was flat and unengaging Tilda Swimtpm talent wasted by hardly saying anything

1 of 1 found helpful

While I loved the cinematography of the film the story itself left much to be desired. It was rather predictable and lacked the depth I was hoping to experience. Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton's performances increased my enjoyment of the film but it wasn't enough to make it a must-see film.

1 of 1 found helpful

Tedious and flat but oddly thought-provoking. It's glossily shot but everything is just depthless surface, which I suppose is some kind of point but hardly satisfying to spend two hours with. Ralph Fiennes is a convincing boor but the migrant crisis seems rather cynically tacked on, Matthias Schoenarts is a lifeless lunk and Tilda Swinton must surely be the world's most boring rock star. The ricotta scene deserves notoriety. There are endless leering 'sexy' shots of Dakota Johnson: what is this, 1974? But you will at least have plenty to talk about once it's (finally) over.

Staff Writer

Much preferred the director's earlier film 'I Am Love'. This explores the same themes of love, betrayal and sexual attraction but at a more superficial level. It's fun in places, especially when Ralph Fiennes leads an evening of raunchy dancing and karaoke, and looks absolutely gorgeous, but none of the characters are very likeable.  

Thoroughly enjoyable and well-made follow-up to I Am Love, with the undoubted highlight of a toe-curlingly brilliant, accurate portrayal of a certain kind of manipulative British middle-aged media type by Ralph Fiennes. Go see it!

The film is a foray into the bubble of the extravagant get away of rock stars and creative types. It certainly is embroiled in self-indulgence and gratification - they are consumed by themselves and each other. The cinematography is stunning, but the story is engulfed by the characters who are remarkably self-centred and unlikable. There are some twists and turns, but they are not surprising considering they are trapped in a house with egoistical maniacs. It simmers well below the surface and no one emerges victorious. It does not splash, it is more of a sprinkle.


A thought provoking thriller with some stellar performances from the weirdly wonderful Tilda Swindon and the fantastically humorous Ralph Fiennes. The cinematography is practically perfect and there are some dramatic twists and turns, however the plot itself is a little flat and lacking. Too much nudity and graphic sex for my liking, perhaps they should have focused more on developing the storyline and characters instead of what position they can get them in next! The ending is not great and the characters are totally unlikable too. I could see people liking this movie as a conversation starter but I think it will be a real love or hate situation!


Ralph Fiennes is funny, charming, sexy, annoying and just brilliant in this quite inconsistent film. Tilda Swinton is as good in showing fragility as strength, in a role where she hardly speaks. The other actors are also quite good but are there clearly only to add to the building-up tension between the 2 main characters. 

Between some pure, good dialogues and acting, there are a lot long and overglamourised shots of food/drink, landscaping and beautiful people body parts... Fairly unnecessary and actually distracting of what could be a great portrait of the troubles and the beauty of intimacy in long relationships (of love and friendship) – even if it’s between the beautiful, rich and famous.
The film loses itself towards the end, creating another (heavy-handed) layer of tension, and trying to introduce some kind of political/critical significance with the subject of illegal immigrants, the role of fame and uselessness of Italian police.


A Bigger Splash is a curiosity of a film. A remake of cult favourite, Le Piscine, it's a psychosexual thriller that focuses on a a pair of ex-lovers: Tilda Swinton's Bowie-inspired rock star recovering from throat operation in a sun-drenched Italian island idyll with her film-maker boyfriend, played by Mattias Schoenaerts; and Ralph Fiennes boisterous record producer and former-lover of Swinton's character. The buzz around the central performances in the film are deserved: Fiennes has discovered a late-career touch for comedy and it's a memorable performance. Swinton is predictably great and particularly skillful at communicating a wealth of complex emotions to the audience with barely any dialogue. That the director is a professor of film is clear: the film-making offers little to be critiqued apart from the actual enjoyability of the film itself. This is very much a character-driven piece, rather than plot-driven (though there are some dramatic plot twists) and the problem with this film is that the characters are simply unlikeable. 

What a tedious film.Over acting,wobbly plot,dialogue at times pure drivel and a laughable ending.It really was poor.The film goes straight into a Cul de Sac and cannot get out.Way too much nudity from the metro sexual looking Tilda Swinton.Her androgynous body quite turned my stomach.A redeeming feature was the glorious sunshine and powerful light of Italy.The film meanders,wobbles and finally falls down.Older people like Swinton and Fiennes should really keep their pants on at all times.It is acutely embarrassing when the oldies need to do so much nudity ( l suspect it is to appease their insecurity that they might not be physically desirable anymore) Horrible attempt at film making

“Look Closer” was the tagline used to promote American Beauty in 1999 and it seems like the perfect tagline for Luca Guadagnino's A Bigger Splash. We certainly get a closer physical look at the four protagonists in a style that offers both a feeling of intimacy and disquieting voyeurism. There is also the “looking closer” at the relationships of the characters which dissect and unravel as the film progresses.

The most important act of “looking closer”, however, is to gaze beyond the beautiful surface at the nuances that offer such a rich depth to the film. The drama lies in the looks and gestures, in the unspoken dialogue. One of the most breathtaking scenes in the film occurs after a karaoke night in a bar with the characters leaving together. The youngest of the four, Penelope (Dakota Johnson), continues to walk away from the crowd towards an unseen distance, and smiles, but at what or whom is unclear.

The film's title is inspired by a David Hockney painting, a work that provides mystery in suggestion as the only sign of a protagonist is a splash and an empty chair, asking the spectator to provide the rest. Guadagnino's film functions in a similar way. On the surface is a film that shimmers in sunshine and fun; the photography draws the spectator into the beauty and holiday tranquillity of Pantelleria, and the energy and quality of the performances, particularly Ralph Fiennes' hurricane of exuberance, provide a crowd to gather around the pool with and to be entertained by; a crowd who can seduce and disgust with equal measure.

The depth of the film is crafted through stylistic choices, fascinating writing, and subtle performances. Every piece of the frame is alive with details that can go unnoticed on a first viewing, and I urge a second viewing to really see this film. The editing is frenetic with a mixture of point of view shots, dramatic close-ups and then a sudden cut to observing from outside the circle, luring the viewer into the group but then allowing them to look without manipulation. The dialogue, meaningful and meaningless, and silences are paced almost as in a work for theatre, which the enclosed setting and limited number of characters permits, and played quite wonderfully by the cast who bring a sense of the past, present and future, and the what might have been, to vivid life.

A Bigger Splash may appear to some as shallow, vulgar, slow or vapid, all descriptions I have heard, but a closer examination and a willingness to look beyond the surface rewards with an intriguing examination of human beings and life, reflecting our frailties, regrets, joys and triumphs. And failing that, the sight of Ralph Fiennes dancing is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.  


This film has great cinematography and flawless performances. The setting and vibe are glamorous and convincing but despite all that it didn't really grab me. It's a bit histrionic and pretentious  and in the end I didn't really care about the characters. I also am troubled by the underlying mysogyny - a 'young temptress', men fighting over their 'ownership' of a woman. But I can see some people would think this was amazing. 

For a film where you want to give most of the characters a slap this was actually very enjoyable.  At times Ralph Fiennes is so OTT you almost have to watch through your fingers, he is not too far from morphing into Leonard Rossiter.  Tilda Swinton proves her class as an actress by propelling the film without words.

Disappointed! The relationships between the characters are interesting, pictures are beautiful, actors are playing really well - everything I usually like in indie movies - however the lack of storyline make the film boring. Something is missing during the film and the end is not good enough to make up for it. Shame!

An incredibly dull film. While "la piscine" was casting two of the most glamorous actors of their time, we have to endure the nude flesh of middle-age retired British artist trying to revive their libido on the wane, sunbathing all day long, mouthing dull statements about their lost fame, and eventually making "splash" in the pool. I left the theatre half way through, and I usually make a point of staying until the end. We could have expected something aesthetic, as in "love", but this is wide off the mark.

Brilliant acting. Ralpf Fiennes and Tilda was amazing. The story itself was a bit confusing. Left many unanswered questions.


Write a review...A Bigger Splash is a stylish erotic thriller from director Luca Guadagnino. Guadagnino has frequently collaborated with Tilda Swinton- notably in 2010’s critically acclaimed I am Love- and has a reputation for experimenting with genre and storytelling. This film is no exception, set on the remote Italian island of Pantelleria, which provides a backdrop that is both whimsical and chilling. The story follows rock-star Marianne Lane (Swinton) - convalescing after a throat operation- and her documentary filmmaker boyfriend. Their peace is unexpectedly shattered when an old friend (and flame) ceremoniously arrives with his estranged daughter in tow.

The sublimity of the Mediterranean setting is stripped away as the narrative progresses: the landscape becomes beleaguered by sandstorms, deluge and the faceless danger of refugees, said to now outnumber the local population. The teeming sinister forces become more apparent as the film unfolds; the scenery and pace are beguiling and the mounting sexual tension is palpable.

The plot is focused on love in many guises, from the parasitic side-effects of unrequited desire to hedonistic pleasures, and each character struggles with temptation. To highlight their vulnerabilities, the viewer is given glimpses into their past and barred from witnessing key events in their present. The setting and narrative are masterfully handled, making A Bigger Splash a mesmerising event.

The direction of the film is superb, but the cast also deserve ample credit: Ralph Fiennes triumphs with his portrayal of a self-indulgent and flamboyant ex-producer who challenges Marianna to revive her past by leaving her stable and conservative life. Swinton is perhaps underused in a role that barely sees her speak; her character always retains a sense of mystery and is aloof, making her rock star persona- hinted to be eccentric in the vein of David Bowie- slightly implausible.

A Bigger Splash is an intriguing film that makes the viewer slightly uncomfortable, but the setting and cast entrance as menacing forces bubble to the surface. It’s interesting, but the unconventional uses of filmmaking techniques occasionally threaten to alienate the viewer. 

This is not really a love story, but instead a story about its deconstruction. That might not be a cheerful thought, but there is something strangely beautiful about the film.

I thought it was a good and interesting film. Although in some respects it followed what you would think the obvious narrative would be, I think it provoked thought in the unsaid on a lot of levels.

The cinematography was very good, with great locations throughout. It was a good watch, with some great scenes but not quite enough to warranat a 4 or 5 sta. There were no real twists / deviations of plot, the acting was good but not show stopping so 3 out of 5 seems fair.


Dave Calhoun said it all, and so did The Telegraph, The Times etc, and especially Monocle, which described it as "A dazzling sun-soaked masterpiece". Amazing film.

The only movie I had watched by Guadagnino is "Melissa P" and I really enjoyed it, so I was glad to find out how more mature he is since then and how gifted he is with mixing comedy, drama and erotism. Inspired from David Hockney's painting at the Tate Britain, the title "A Bigger Splash" makes a lot more sense as the story goes. 

Different, interesting characters and stunning performances by all main actors (ok, Ralph Fiennes steals the show but the rest are so talented too). I am a bit ashamed to say I find Matthias very hot and I loved the different character Ralph Fiennes was playing, Harry. Dakota showed some real talent playing his 22 year old daughter, Penelope. Last but not least, Tilda Swinton was so damn well, she is not the best rock star I've ever seen but I liked the contrast. 

I was particularly amazed about the wild beauty of Pantelleria, the italian island where the film was talking place and gave the true base for the greatness of the film. Such a pure beauty, it reminded of my home. The director of photography did a great job on that! The soundtrack was brilliant as well. 

It is not a typical Hollywood film, it is more close to European cinema, which makes it, together with "Youth", a pleasant break, a different option from the rest of the films on the cinema right now (and all year to be fair). The sunny landscapes do make a difference. So entertaining, heartbreaking at times, fully enjoyable. Do check it out! Q&A at the end with Luca Guadagnino was a unique experience, he is such a delightful person and a talented film maker. 

I went home still trying to process the film, and perhaps that’s the point, it is a very art house type of movie after all. The film is based on an intertwining of what appear to be very intense relationships of past and present. I didn't feel that much really happened in the film though, there was no moment where I felt a definite climax and I sat through it waiting for a point to the story. It's shot in a nice setting and the actors are all great, but the storyline is lacking anything engaging enough to draw you in. 

Storyline was unfortunately too predictable but Ralph Fiennes dancing to Rolling Stones was making up for it

Lusciously shot in a hostile Sicilian landscape,this is darkly comic with a cast of infuriatingly selfish and amoral characters.With a counter-intuitive score, tantalizing close -ups and an immaculately clad Tilda Swinton at centre stage,the tangled relationships play out like a voyeuristic travelogue.At times overblown but never boring,there is enough exploration of flawed human behaviour to linger over and discuss long after the credits roll.

A movie of quiet envy and selfish people. If you like Antonioni-style awkward silences, lustful gazes and the unpredictability of bitterness then you will love this. If you want a nice movie about rock stars with a redemptive moral at the end of the film then this probably isn't for you but I found it exciting because the story didn't go where you thought it would go. It chose instead, to follow the characters diligently and regardless of whether they were consistent or even pleasant. All four lead actors were great. I wanted to agree with the director during the Q&A, that Ralph Fiennes played a very different character from normal but I thought about it on the way home and he doesn't really play the same type twice. Even so, he really let's rip here. Go watch it and make up your own mind.

Loved the movie. The acting was brilliant (was awesome in particular to see Ralph Fiennes play a type of character we haven't seen him play before), and the setting itself played a massive part in bringing the directors' vision to life. Really enjoyed it.

A movie to watch for the fabulous acting, fabulous scenery and fabulous cinematography, but not for the storyline, which is really just an excuse to allow the former. The ending is particularly disappointing as it feels rushed and out of balance with the rest of the film.

With Ralph Fiennes being my favourite actor, I had expectations from him and Tilda Swinton, but wasn't sure how everything else would turn out. I ended up enjoying myself immensely. This is a role you've never imagined someone like Ralph Fiennes could play - a comedic exuberance that takes the glimpses we saw in his Monsieur Gustav from The Grand Budapest Hotel to a whole other level. The way the island was integrated as almost a fifth character was also something I found extremely interesting. The Q&A with director Luca Guadagnino rounded up the evening and shed light on certain aspects. All in all, this is one of those movies that stands out and you remember for a long time, with a distinctly European cinematic feel.

Ralph Fiennes puts in a superb performance as the rock and roll lothario Harry, Tilda Swinton's muted rock singer captivates, but something does feel lacking in this tale of four distinct characters on an Italian island. Still, there was enough there to keep me interested and entertained.

Predictable. So predictable l wanted to laugh. 

One would think creative people are not making "seen it al before" movies! But there we have it. 

Old woman with young boyfriend + old man with young daughter. Middle of nowhere, middle of hot summer, every one is horny. See where this is going? Person A goes with C, person B goes with D. Its like "Stealing Beauty", "Cruel Intentions" and "Viki, Cristina, Barcelona" but slow. With close ups here and there. 

Two stars for the camera work on beautiful scenery and good music. 

Best moments of the movie were the ones where actors had no dialog. 


Good movie, outstanding performances.

Personally I think Raph Fiennes is brilliant at being annoying and although the rest of the cast is very good he takes this movie to another level.

0 of 1 found helpful

This is contemporary Italian cinema is at its best. If you liked I am Love or The Great Beauty then you'll love this film. It's based on a 70's French movie with Alain Delon but it's very British in its content and in its eccentric characters. The director, Luca Guadagnino, uses a mix of genres (sometimes comedy, sometimes thriller, sometimes romance) and a fantastic Rock' Roll soundtrack, to take the characters from their idyllic Sicilian holiday to a much darker place. Also features 4 amazing actors...often with no clothes on.

0 of 1 found helpful

 It was amazing. I've seen it yesterday and I am still constantly thinking about some of the scenes. There were quite a few small, but highly noticeable tricks with the camera which I simply loved. Actors were fantastic, and (spoiler alert) We also saw the real Elder Wand.

The ending was unexpected but there have been some hints during the film.

0 of 1 found helpful

Not a film II would have rushed to see , but I really enjoyed last night's Time Out Card screening. A bigger splash has so much going for it. Superficially entertaining , beautifully shot and with a great soundtrack - but below lurks a story that explores human , emotional and ethical boundaries. Ralph Fiennes dancing to The Rolling Stones Emotional Rescue is the highlight of the piece. The whole cast are excellent in a tantalising / sexy way. What really made the night for me was the Q and A conducted by Dave Calhoun with Director, Luca Guadagnino. Relaxed, funny, informative. What a good way to spend a Tuesday evening !