Best of
lMovie Review
"With a Friend Like Harry"
By Mira Harber
    Do 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 really strange.
     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 it seems. 
     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.


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