Les Petite Mouchoirs (Little White Lies) is a sort of dramatic meditation on the possible effects of what we think to be harmless white lies. The sort of lies you tell friends and family to partially conceal the depth of the truth. For whatever reason we tell these lies, be it innocent with the aim of protecting them from pain or selfish with the aim of hiding our own embarrassment, we always seem to forgive the fact that we are telling a lie. Exploring what happens when the truth is finally revealed isn’t something we hope for when the initial lie has been told, which is exactly what Les Petite Mouchoirs focuses on.
Every summer a group of long term friends take a holiday together in an idyllic setting where all ages can unwind and let loose. The holiday is time out for themselves away from their normal lives and a time to feel good, no hassle just enjoyment. Unlike any previous holiday, this particular year is the year they learn what the true expense of their blissful self indulgence is worth.
Think you know your friends, think again. How much of your friends lives do you know as truth, how much of who they are to you do you take as what you’d like to believe and how much can you admit to them that you may not be the person they share a friendship with?
It takes a vehicle crash that leads to the possibility of losing one of the key members of this group of friends to make them realise the reality of the lies they’ve told and the secrets they hold dear. What happens to their friend is honest and undeniably true. The event of his injury opens their eyes to the harshness of calamity, the brutality of change and the unexpected nature of chance that now binds them within this terrible situation. The narrative hinges on the fragility of truth itself and the capabilities of truth’s revelation, friendships that before seemed so carefree are now tender and delicate. Emotions run high as the secrets between friends affect their understandings of each others personas and as they come to grips with what the secrets could mean to the previously compact and complacent group setting.
Hidden desires come to the surface and honesty provides a rocky discourse to the narrative as long term friends must come to terms with such issues as unrequited love. Most importantly, the narrative examines how this all affects their friendship and the relationships with the other people who know them, or at least thought they knew them.
The main premise of the film rests on the quotation ‘you believe each other’s lies and you lie to yourselves’. As a result I felt no sympathy for the characters as the events unfold. The characters themselves rely on the intentions of the relatively wealthy, which are affluent enough to take this expansive holiday each year. Unless you’re consistently well wined and dined then you probably won’t feel anything for these characters either. It’s unfortunate that the actors don’t seem to have creative control over the development of their characterisation, or at least, enough to bring realistic depth to the narrative. Yes it is interesting to watch the events unfold, but as they do so, regardless of how emotional the characters get in response to the events, they lack the ability to draw the audience to experiencing the process of emotions alongside them. In a surreal way, it’s possible to retain the audience slant of enveloping yourself in the emotional impact of the narrative, but only under the understanding of needing to detach yourself from the film enough to imagine how you would emotionally respond if the same happened to you. A lot of the lies told are quite flippant and detached from anything assuredly important in everyday life and thus, it’s hard to place yourself in the above mentioned position without great effort.
A stellar cast including French cinema favourites Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), François Cluzet (Tell No One) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist) are seriously let down by the fickle script. Performance brilliance is completely lost in this tangled web of deceptive character and narrative folly. It’s such a disappointment to see talent go to utter waste. Speaking of which, the director and writer is none other than the brilliant mind behind The Beach and Tell No One. The result is a painful cinematic experience wherein the narrative reliance on emotional attachment to characters is completely misguided. Something went terribly wrong here.