With a Friend Like Harry Movie Review: Dark French Thriller Keeps You On Edge

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It is summer in Southern France. The sun is beating down on everything. You are at the tail end of a long road trip. Your baby is crying - screaming at the top of her lungs. Nothing consoles her. Your middle child is screaming for the baby to stop, ordering your oldest to leave her alone, and generally making demands that no one is listening to. Your first born is kicking the back of your seat complaining about the heat, how uncomfortable her seat belt is, and whatever else comes to mind. You are snipping at your wife and she snips right back. Everybody is tired, grouchy, and hot. There is no air conditioning in your car. The constant, unrelenting heat swelters - making iy unbearable.

You are supposed to drive another couple of hours to your parents but you make a decision to make it just a bit farther to your vacation home. Rest comes now. Your parents can wait. You stop off at a gas station to fill up, call your parents and use the restroom. In the men's room there is a man looking, no staring at you, and he doesn't even have the decency or shame to cover it up. You finish your business and ask him what he wants. He gives you a knowing smirk and says your name. He then talks about the high school you attended and introduces himself. You neither recognize his face nor his name. You don't even remember knocking his teeth out as he tells you the story. He is polite, but strange. He is Harry.

With a Friend Like Harry begins in this way. It takes its time through this introduction making the audience feel the uncomfortableness of that car ride with its tormenting heat and painfully obnoxious children. From the moment we see Harry (Sergi Lopez) we feel on edge. He is well kept, polite, and perfectly friendly yet there is something unsettling about him. There is a coolness in his demeanor and an intensity in his stare. He invites the family - Michel (Laurent Lucas) and Claire (Mathilde Seigner) to dinner but they politely decline. He invites himself to their house with a smile and a superbly polite "if its not too much trouble." Harry's beautiful girlfriend Plum (Sophie Guillemin) comes along too.

At dinner Harry is full of charm and weirdness. He is kind and generous and enthusiastic about Michel's writing. He inquires to see if he is still writing, shows disappointment that he is not and then very strangely quotes a poem Michel wrote for the high-school magazine and goes on and on about how great the first (and only) chapter he wrote of a science-fiction novel. He then very straightforwardly discusses a mutual girlfriend the two of them had and notes that Michel apparently gave this girl her first orgasms. All of this in front of the children which is weird even for the French.

Even stranger is that Harry and Plum stay the night though the invitation was originally for dinner, and they then stay a few more days going so far as to get a motel in town though they were supposed to be on their way to Switzerland. Nobody at all mentions this strangeness throughout the film, though Michel and Claire do give each other some furtive glances.

Plum notes that Harry is born to help people and having inherited his family's fortune he has plenty of time and money to do so. He buys the family a very generous gift and gives plenty of unsolicited advice. In his private moments he is filled with rage that this advice is not always taken. In many ways he acts the rich, spoiled brat - a performance that is reminiscent of the teenagers in the film Compulsion. As the film develops we find that those characters are similar in other ways as well.

The pacing of the film is slow, deliberate. Director Dominik Moll allows us to feel a sense of dread and menace creeping in, but keeps it in the background so we're always guessing about Harry's true nature. Even as we begin to understand how psychotic he really is, the violence is kept mostly in the corners, allowing us just small peeks at what is happening. Meanwhile the relationships deteriorate. Michel and Claire snap at each other over finances, the children, and his parents. His dad is constantly calling him asking him to visit and creating more tension in his life. Harry is always there asking to help and pushing himself in to their lives while simultaneously destroying it. There aren't any big "jump out and grab you" scares and the horror is toned down for the most part. But the atmosphere is kept dark and tension filled.

I won't spoil the ending but one might naturally finish the title by saying, "With a Friend like Harry, who needs enemies?"

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