Never trust a helping hand
This film had been on my to-see list ever since it came out. I can gladly say that it perfectly fulfilled my expectations. The only advice I can give, is to not expect to be overwhelmed by the time the film ends. Though things get pretty demented at times, the ways of this film are strangely subtle & sinisterly humorous. If you’ve enjoyed Michael Haneke‘s, then you should not hesitate to see this French film too.
Michel (Laurent Lucas) and Clair (Mathilde Seigner) are travelling by car to their remote summer house on the outskirts in Switzerland. Taking some time off to renovate things & spending a holiday with their little kids. Still in French, at a highway rest-stop, Michel encounters Harry, who claims to be an old schoolmate of him. Michel has no instant recollection of what all Harry has to say, but politely plays along, clearly avoiding any offense to Harry. And when Harry, accompanied by his sex doll wife Prune, kindly suggests to drive from France to Switzerland together, in separate cars, Michel agrees. His wife Clair, hesitantly reluctant at first, ultimately consents. The moral of this set-up? Trust your wife’s female intuition. Michel just made a big mistake.
From the moment Sergi López gets introduced as the friendly Harry (at the very start of the film), director Dominik Moll manages to saddle you up with an uncomfortable feeling. And very slowly, it all becomes more and more unsettling as the film proceeds. The events & complications portrayed, make excellent use of the isolated setting that our family inhabits. The environment itself poses absolutely no threat and for once, it’s also not the locals our outsider family should fear. The bad things will come from someone they’ve already invited into their comfort zone. And by the time they start realizing that, bad things are already getting worse.
A big merit of this film, is undoubtedly the fact that Moll put real characters into realistic situations. And he does all this by not exaggerating the absurd, but keeping things simple instead. While Harry – and subsequently his wife Prune (Sophie Guillemin) also – provides all the necessary abnormality in this every-day plot, it’s the characterization of the family that makes this film feel familiar and real. It’s the little things, like kids getting annoying on the backseat of the car during a long summer drive. Or Michel’s parents having the desire to meddle & help out with his undertakings, often more uncalled for than not so. Michel’s mother making a subtle inquiry about his wife, indicating us she has her own thoughts on her son’s marriage. These little details are irrelevant to the plot, but they make real humans out of the characters. And while you pick up on these subtleties, it enhances the awareness of the fact that Harry’s abnormal behaviour is seeping into the lives of these very normal people. Even in scenes where Harry is not featured, you keep him in mind, because at most given moments he will always be in the company of another family member on another location. A splendid way to keep the viewer on his toes in a slow but steady moving film.
Harry, Un Ami Qui Vous Veut Du Bien is by no means explicit, but it’s still an effectively disquieting film. At times slightly comedic, due to Harry’s impossible behaviour mainly, but also because of some simple, recognisable situations. Lòpez strikes the right note with his performance between overtly friendliness & plain craziness. At no point he goes shamelessly over the top, nor does the film really feature any excessive outbursts of hard on-screen violence, and that really works for the better. The mild brilliance of this film, lies with the question as to what Harry’s motivation is and what the outcome of it all will be. Do not expect a big mystery to be revealed. Do not expect a puzzle from the past explained. Do not expect grotesque bloodshed and violence. Expect subtlety and finesse to great effect.
Trailer (original French language, Portuguese subtitles):