Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien (With a Friend Like Harry...)
Directed by Dominik Moll
Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When watching a foreign film I often find my self thinking, what would this film be like if it were made by Americans? I didn't have to ask that question of With a Friend Like Harry, because there are a ton of similar American films: Single White Female, Pacific Heights, Dead Calm, etc. Seemingly helpful friend/tenant/roommate is really an obsessive psychopath is not a rare plot. However, With a Friend Like Harry differs greatly from its American counterparts in tone and execution, if not in content. Harry is a low-key, subtle, yet still effective thriller, which makes it a rare gem indeed.
Lucas Laurent and Mathilde Seigner play Michel and Claire Pape, a middle class French couple who are taking their three young daughters to their unfinished vacation home in rural France. On the way Michel runs into Harry (Sergi López), an acquaintance from high school. Michel does not remember Harry, but Harry remembers Michel, particularly Michel's poems and stories that were published in the school paper. Harry is phenomenally wealthy and is on his way to Switzerland with his girlfriend, Plum (Sophie Guillemin). Harry and Plum end up going to the Papes' vacation home for drinks and then they never leave. They stay in the area so Harry can help his old school chum have a better life and get back to writing. Harry does this by, in his own words, "finding a solution to every problem." Unfortunately Harry is not limited by money or morals when it comes to solving problems.
Harry is a monster, but he is a monster of luxury and kindness. As played by López, Harry seems reasonable, calm and pleasant almost always. When he perceives a problem that he must violently remove, the decision registers on López's face as slight discomfort and nausea, not as any murderous rage. This makes Harry extremely creepy, and he is far more terrifying than a crazy eyed raving lunatic. Harry only loses his control once in the film, and it is the least effective part of the movie. Although López performs the screaming in the speeding car sequence well, it is out of character with the rest of his performance and is less disturbing than Harry's usual calm behavior.
Laurent and Seigner do a wonderful job of playing put-upon, tired, ordinary people whose lives and values contrast in funny and depressing ways with Harry's confident playboy and Plum's bored, beautifully kept woman.
The thing that I loved about this film and some people will find irritating is that nothing is explained. We don't know why Harry is obsessed with Michel or why he has no morals. There is no psychological explanation for why he is how he is. When the film turns sinister, no one expects anything -- their naďveté and trust are never explained. Michel always compromises and Harry never does; Claire is smart but lets Michel do what he thinks is best and Plum just likes to sleep. The explanations don't go deeper than that. This doesn't make the film superficial; instead it lends the film a sense of humor and gentle absurdity and keeps it from being superficially deep and offering easy answers. The ending is simple, non-moralistic, and extremely satisfying.
Two more things: the opening scene will make you never want to have children; the end will make you want to tell your significant other you love them every day.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien (2000)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings