Michel and his wife are making their annual trek to a rural farmhouse they purchased a few years ago in the French countryside. Every summer, they spend their vacation there, fixing it up. Their three young girls sit in the back seat of the hot car, complaining, crying and venting their misery. Finally, Michel decides to stop at a gas station and freshen up. There, he runs into an old friend, Harry, whom he does not recognize, but Harry certainly recognizes him. Harry remembers the poem and short story Michel published in the school newspaper over twenty years ago. Harry invites himself to their farmhouse for a drink. Harry and his girlfriend, Plum, soon become guests. Slowly, they learn about Michel and Sophie's life. Harry, financially well-off, decides to buy them an air conditioned SUV.
"With A Friend Like Harry", the new French film released by Miramax Zoe in the United States, is a very interesting, fun film.
Virtually every newspaper ad for the film quotes a reviewer who compares the film to Hitchcock's works. Comparing a film to a classic is always a tricky concept. Comparing a film to the work of someone as revered as Hitchcock usually illicits snickers and derision. "With A Friend Like Harry" is the first film I have seen in some time that is worthy of such comparisons. It isn't as good as Hitchcock's best, or even his good, but it does reach for the same level of suspense that Hitchcock was able to achieve over and over again.
"Harry" also relies on the same suspension of belief that Hitchcock relied on frequently. Can a man mistake a woman that he had an intimate relationship with simply because she has changed her hair color? Can a man solve a murder while bound to a wheelchair in his apartment? Can a man survive a cross country hunt? In "Harry" we have to believe that a man will recognize a classmate after twenty years and feel strongly enough about him to help him change his life. The actor playing Harry, Sergio Lopez, reveals the layers of his character in a very restrained manner. Slowly, we realize that the character is deranged and psychotic, but we don't learn this from a foaming mouth or long diatribes.
The actor playing Michel is also very good. He brings a quiet desperation to the role. He is a family man who has never realized his dreams, but he knows that he now has responsibilities and carries on.
The rustic French farmhouse is an ideal location. A bit surrealistic, it allows the characters to act differently toward one another. Slowly, as Michel changes, he seeks solitude in the newly remodeled bathroom, a pink horror that his parents have commissioned in the little farmhouse.
"With A Friend Like Harry" is a very good, very suspenseful, enjoyable and, at times, funny film.