Published May 01, 2001Alfred Hitchcock once described good suspense was having a bomb under a table where the main character is sitting and only the audience can see it. Harry is that bomb.
"With a Friend Like Harry" keeps your eyes on the bomb. This creepy little French film, ably directed by Dominik Moll and co-written by Moll and Gilles Marchand, tells the tale of one young family and what they did on their summer vacation. On the drive out to their summer home, Michel (Laurant Lucas), his wife Claire (Mathilde Seigner) and their three daughters meet up with Michel's old school mate, Harry (Sergi Lopez) and his girlfriend Plum (Sophie Guilleme) who become odd houseguests.
The tone is set right at the start with the hot crying children and the hot frazzled parents locked in the car with them. Just when you think you've found relief with the family's rest stop, we meet Harry in a creepy bathroom scene. The tension just builds from one normal but quirky scene to another. These are so quirky, in fact, the film has been billed as a comedy/thriller/drama. I prefer thriller/creepshow. Like everything else in this movie, it's all atmosphere and feeling. While things appear normal to the characters, the audience senses something amiss.
Usually one associates light with tranquility and dark with menace. Moll doesn't let up; the threat of the bomb never rests. The tingling in your spine doesn't let up with the morning light or flash of white. You sit tensed for whatever comes next. And the pacing feels more like stalking as well. The overwhelming menace of Harry is present even when he is not on the screen. There's also a seeming non-threatening aerial shot of the snaking, twisting road that underscores the uneasy theme of the film.
The soundtrack is also muted and effectively used to make you feel the tension that the characters do not. The music is weird and off-putting leaving you wondering. So, too, is the ending perfect in its imperfection.