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:: Harry, He is Here to Help

The title hides what turns out to be an excellent suspense thriller from France. It is expertly polished with black comedy and dry wit as it is, with unnerving psychology. German director Dominik Moll has only made one feature film, but you would think that, by this film’s standard, he has been making suspense dramas all his life.

Michel (Laurent Lucas) and Claire (Mathilde Seigner) are a low-income, well-educated couple who take their three daughters to their holiday house. In trying to lessen the tension in the car, because of the restless children, they take a stop at a service station. Michel is in the men’s rest room when he is watched by Harry (Sergi Lopez) who waits in expectation of some kind of recognition. Harry is Michel’s old school friend, although Michel seems bemused by how much Harry knows about those early years at school. The main topic of their meeting is Michel’s school poetry and writing ability. Harry and his girlfriend Plum (Sophie Guillemin) proceed to invade Michel and Claire’s lives, by twisting their arm to take the children home in an air-conditioned car. Harry enjoys the riches of life as opposed to the struggling Michel. Then Harry virtually asks Michel whether he and Plum can stay with the family. They talk and drink, with Harry trying to persuade Michel to resume his writing that he abandoned all those years ago. So, Harry is here to help.

The direction of Moll is clever. He keeps us guessing as to Harry’s manner and motives. The point of ceasing to relate the rest of the story virtually has to cease here, so as not to spoil the outcome. It’s intriguing enough to observe Harry. Michel had probably needed something to stimulate his life when Harry arrived on the scene. Moll gives us a quietly building study of the unique character that is Harry. In clearing Michel’s path for an undisturbed world that a writer needs for his work. The seemingly easy-going Harry interferes heavily in the lines of Michel’s extended family to incredible degrees. 

Laurent Lucas expresses a lot of his character without showing open emotions. In the role of a bewildered and overwhelmed family man, he has a sullen, but charismatic look. Mathilde Seigner is very good as the harried and suspicious wife. Sergi Lopez, who we saw last year in “Un Liaison Pornographique”, is spot-on as Harry. He has an affable nature, is so chummy with Michel and so conscious of the obligations of friendship that Michel doesn’t realise what is ultimately in it. Lopez provides the right mix of trust and menace and pulls it off without breaking a sweat. Fans of the classic television series “Get Smart” will remember the famous character of Simon the Likeable, with those twinkling eyes. Harry’s appearance is just as convincing. 

The film keeps the viewer on edge, backed with the steadily sinister film score from veteran composer David Sinclair Whitaker. Moll’s every turn is convincing. His cast is superb and, best of all; the conclusion is smart, devious and satisfying. It’s a low-key winner.