a Friend Like Harry"
|By Mira Harber
you remember how uncomfortable it feels when a total stranger approaches
you, big smile on their face, apparently knows you, and you can’t remember
them at all? Well, that awkward feeling could get much, much worse, as
the French film With a Friend Like Harry show us.
Michel (Laurent Lucas) is a ‘regular’ family man on vacation with his wife
Claire (Matilde Seigneur) and their three small daughters. He uses a highway
rest stop to splash some cold water on his face, and get a moments respite
from his very noisy, hot & irritable young daughters. In the bathroom
he is approached by a man who smiles very broadly, if strangely, and seems
to know him. In fact, this stranger knows a lot about Michel and Michel
can remember nothing of the stranger, Harry (Sergi Lopez).
Harry is brimming with smiles and confidence. After he re-introduces himself
to Michel (they were apparently schoolmates), he wrangles an invitation
to Michel’s summer home. Harry was on his way to the Matterhorn, Switzerland
with his girlfriend Plum (Sohie Guillemin). But stop - wouldn’t driving
hours out of your way, to visit with a man who can’t remember you, with
a young family, be more fun???
You can’t exactly put your finger on it, but you already know that there
is something wrong here. Meeting a long, lost friend in a public bathroom,
ok - a little odd, but we can live with that, but then ... forcing a man
who doesn’t remember you, to invite you to his home, ok, definitely strange,
but then, staying the night, and another night ... it’s starting to get
Harry asks completely inappropriate and insinuating questions for a virtual
stranger. The ‘summer home’ that Harry has invited himself to gives the
words ‘fixer-upper’ a new meaning. After only being there a few minutes,
Harry tells Michel - “I’d be happy to loan you money.” You’re not sure
if Michel should be insulted, or if Harry is just so open (lacking in social
graces - depending on your point of view) that we’re not accustomed to
people talking so ‘freely.’ When Michel’s car breaks down, Harry insists
on buying him a bright red SUV. Despite the fact the Michel thinks
SUVs are vulgar Harry tells “You’ll love it once you get used to it,” and
buys it for Michel. Whoa, partner - pretty generous for one night’s lodging
and more than a little over the top?
Harry is devoted to Michel’s schoolboy writings and recites, from memory
(?!), a terrible poem that Michel once wrote. Michel is embarrassed but
flattered. When Harry insists that he re-commence his writing, you can
see the wheels turn as Michel considers that yes, maybe his wife is holding
him back, as Harry insinuated. That’s Harry, always stirring up the pot,
making comments and suggestions that only serve to bring discord and disharmony
to a situation.
Michel’s parents have given him a surprise - a horrible, hot pink-tiled
bathroom. It is truly terrible and you can only wonder, ‘what were they
thinking?’, especially in a country cabin. When something like this happens,
haven’t we all thought ‘Wouldn’t we be better off if we didn’t have to
put up with people like this?’ (even if they are family?) How many
people act on that thought?
Is Harry just a nosy, pushy kind of guy, or is he something more sinister?
I was reminded of Hitchcock more than once while watching this film - a
frightening drive at high speeds, down a winding, threatening road
(nods to both North by Northwest & To Catch A Thief) and Hitchcockian
music, unsettling and dark.
Nothing is ever quite as
As With A Friend Like Harry proceeds, an initial uneasiness
turns into foreboding, foreboding to dread, and the feeling just gets worse
and worse. This movie gets under your skin (goose bumps and all).
If you want a real thriller, check it out.