Paris lawyer Paul Exben (Romain Duris) has it all - or would like to think so. As in the Talking Heads song, "Once in a Lifetime," he lives in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife. Not only that, but they have two beautiful children.

Yet all is not quite as it should be.

Paul can sense that his wife, Sarah (Marina Fois), is drifting away from him. Worse than that, there's an emptiness in his life that he struggles to ignore - an emptiness that, at the end of the day, renders his success and possessions meaningless.

Perhaps he should have pursued his dream of being a photographer. Paul can't help but envy his acquaintance Grégoire (Eric Ruf), who has remained committed to his career in photography despite financial hardship. But there's a friction between the two men that goes deeper than that.

Grégoire turns out to be a cog in the machinery of Paul's life - the person who unexpectedly sends him spinning off in a direction that's dangerous and potentially deadly, but also exhilarating.

Based on a book by American novelist Douglas Kennedy that was set in Connecticut, "The Big Picture" is at once an intriguing character study, an offbeat crime story and a thoughtful exploration of the meaning of identity. In relocating the action, director and co-writer Eric Lartigau deliver a film with an emotional immediacy that transcends geography.

Although the cast is solid, the film is a showcase for Duris, who is perhaps best known in America for the romantic comedy "L'Auberge Espagnole" and the crime thriller "The Beat That My Heart Skipped." His performance exudes a blend of charisma and confusion that effectively reflects Paul's dilemma.

"The Big Picture" ends perhaps a bit too ambiguously, but there's something refreshing about its faith in the moviegoer's intelligence.


The Big Picture


• Not rated: Contains obscenity, brief violence and sex. In French, Serbian, Montenegrin and English with English subtitles.

• Director: Eric Lartigau.

• Cast: Romain Duris, Marina Fois.

• Running time: 114 minutes.