Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Dominik Moll
Stars: Laurent Lucas, Sergi Lopez, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin, Liliane Rovere, Dominique Rozan, Michael Fau, Victoire De Koster.
All too often writers tend to describe most screen thrillers as Hitchcockian in nature, even if they don’t deserve the accolade. One film that certainly does deserve the comparison is this unnerving little psychological thriller from France.
In Harry, He Is Here To Help, an innocent man has his life turned upside down by a stranger, and everyday events take on a menacing new dimension. German born director Dominik Moll has perfectly developed a gradual air of creeping uneasiness and suspense throughout this engaging film. The film is also liberally sprinkled with subtle references to Hitchcock’s oeuvre, which the more astute will recognise. Thankfully, the producers resisted the obvious temptation to call the film The Trouble With Harry.
Usually playing the nice guy, Sergi Lopez (from Western and Une Liaison Pornographique, etc) finds himself cast against type here. Lopez delivers a nicely ambiguous and understated performance as the titular Harry, who seems to have an unhealthy obsession with his former school mates. After a chance encounter with Michel (Laurent Lucas) and his wife Claire (Mathilde Seigner) at a roadside stop during a long drive to their holiday house, the affable Harry, and his rather simple girlfriend Plum (Sophie Guillemin, from L’Ennui, etc), quickly begins to ingratiate himself into the tight family circle through acts of charity. He even buys them a brand new four-wheel drive to replace their old car.
Michel, Claire and their three daughters are determined to spend some of their time fixing up their dilapidated mountain retreat. But Harry is a seductive and manipulative psychopath who has other ideas. He tries to inspire Michel to return to writing by quoting verbatim a terrible poem from his youth. Everyone seems oblivious to the early warning signals that there is something unsettling about Harry and his manner. Harry seems determined to remove any one who ridicules Michel’s ambition – which includes Michel’s busybody parents, his too inquisitive, lay about brother Eric, and even Michel’s family, if necessary.
Moll’s direction is tight and assured and he wastes few moments, relying on suggestion to create a disturbing and uneasy atmosphere. There is a distinct lack of explanation for Harry’s motivation, which may annoy some people, but which works perfectly in the context of the film. It’s hard to explain such sociopathic behaviour, and this lack of obvious motivation somehow seems even more chilling. Lopez has a charming and affable nature that conceals the dormant menace, and his performance gives the film its nicely ambiguous overtones. He is a charming psychopath much in the same vein as Matt Damon’s character in The Talented Mr Ripley. With friends like Harry, you don’t need enemies!
Harry, He Is Here To Help also reminded me strongly of John Schlesinger’s superb 1990 thriller Pacific Heights, although Moll’s direction is far more subtle and less overtly violent here.