With A Friend Like Harry (2000)

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sergei Lopez in 'With A Friend Like Harry...'

Written by Dominik Moll and Giles Marchand, based on the poem by Frances Villain

Directed by Dominik Moll

Starring Sergi Lopez, Laurent Lucas and Mathilde Seigner

This is how Thrillers should be made. The scariest moments in life are the ones in which we feel something is not quite right despite the relative normalcy of a situation; a fear we cannot prove or be sure about. ‘Harry’ taps into that moment and opens the flood gates.

‘Harry’ is slow and ominous film without overstating its goals. Sergi Lopez is brilliant as Harry, a seemingly friendly, selfless man who wedges himself into a young couple’s life by claiming to be an old school friend of the husband as they wash up in a roadside bathroom. What starts as awkward, friendly banter turns into a truncated, uneasy friendship.

Essentially this is Fatal Attraction, but with two platonic friends rather than jilted lovers. To say the French can make films better than Americans would be an over simplification. However, there is something to be said for the understated direction and atmosphere in this French masterpiece. Thrillers normally give you dramatic sign posts with scene chewing performances and scores that tell you how to feel. In the case of With A Friend Like Harry, the characters all act exceedingly normal in many regards. Perhaps that’s the thrill. There’s nothing inherently creepy about any one scene or character, but the feeling of dread creeps up slowly. In most thrillers, psychopaths know they’re psychopaths and act accordingly, because Hollywood is afraid of not spelling things out for an audience. The beauty of ‘With A Friend Like Harry’ is that everybody sees themselves as exceedingly normal and that’s where the terror comes in. The husband is afraid to admit just how worried he is about Harry and nobody else can seem to match his feelings of uneasiness with the uncomfortably friendly man that they’ve never met before.

The relationships are all strained, although nobody says anything. The eventual unraveling of everybody’s otherwise normal, safe lives happens so suddenly and without any hints or big moments that it makes the finale that much more satisfying as our Hero- I won’t say who it is- is forced to take drastic measures at a moment’s notice, in a way I could imagine events playing out in our reality.

With A Friend Like Harry is a bold, human thriller of Hitchcockian order that forces us to pay close attention and rely on character development rather than spectacle or signposts. It’s telling that Sergi Lopez has become the European Anthony Hopkins such as his future role as an abusive Nazi colonel in Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”. A fine film with excellent performance and precision scary atmosphere, ‘Harry’ is not a thriller to be missed!


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