With a Friend Like Harry?

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
Director:Dominik Moll
Writers:Moll and Gilles Marchand
Miramax; R; 117 minutes
Cast:Laurent Lucas, Sergi Lpez, Mathilde Seigner

Part of Alfred Hitchcock's genius lay in his knowledge that the most terrifying and suspenseful moments often emerge from the most mundane situations. Computer-animated dinosaurs aren't half as scary as his ordinary world twisted with doppelgangers, ambiguity, and the quotidian made uncanny. French film With a Friend Like Harry? owes much to Hitchcock. But the success is all its own.

The movie begins in a family car. Michel and Claire (Laurent Lucas and Mathilde Seigner) have three screaming kids and an overheated car. Michel runs into Harry (Spanish actor Sergi Lpez) in the men's room at a highway rest stop. Friendly Harry claims to be an old friend, and spouts off a verse of Michel's schoolboy poetry to prove it. Before long the amiable man has invited himself and his buxom girlfriend Plum (Sophie Guillemin) back to Michel's vacation home. Yet something isn't quite right about Harry.

In Lpez's skilled hands, Harry's gregarious nature develops believably into ominously off-putting usefulness. Friends don't give friends S.U.V.s although that is exactly what Harry does. In Hitchcockian fashion, Harry and Michel can be interpreted as flips to the same psychological coin: Harry's the overly free macho man and Michel is the domesticated father/husband. Also, like Hitchcock, someone soon turns murderously sinister.

With a Friend Like Harry? succeeds because of its relaxed, unhurried approach to suspense. Suspense is something one builds, after all, and quality construction takes some time. Slow in parts, but ultimately rewarding.

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