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HARRY, HE IS HERE TO HELP

SYNOPSIS:
Michel (Laurent Lucas) and Claire (Mathilde Seigner) are going for a short vacation at their weekender with screaming brats bundled into their, unreliable, un-airconditioned car, when at a gas station on the way, Michel is greeted by Harry (Sergi Lopez), an old school acquaintance who remembers much more about Michel than Michel recalls about Harry. Harry, traveling in the air-conditioned comfort of a new model Merc with buxom girlfriend Plum (Sophie Guillemin), gradually insinuates himself into the young family’s holiday with gestures of help. To Harry, life’s problems simply need solutions – however unusual or draconian or deadly.

"Like a scorching short story, Dominik Moll’s Harry . . . is a challenging and haunting work defying easy pigeon holes. While it is a drama, it is also a mystery; there is no clue to the motive of the title character, which is the one that propels the bizarre action. There is a link between the main characters, but it’s left to us to explore it in detail, since Moll gives us sketchy outlines; they went to school together. But never mind the genre (Hitchcock-inspired, perhaps), the film has an elegant simplicity and the powerful driving force of a single idea well developed and well executed. Not that the film is simplistic: the very real circumstances of a young, struggling middle class family – mum and dad, three little kids and the man’s parents – who are all locked together in the inevitable conflicts and see-saws of family bonds, where people love and despise each other on a daily basis, influenced by the wobblies that life throws us. In this respect, Moll creates a perfectly clear picture – including the most authentic little kids I’ve seen in a film, from screeching to sleeping. But he is far less clear and explanatory when it comes to Harry’s persona or his actions. There is nothing obvious about the film, and lovers of nuance will be thrilled throughout its 117 minutes. It is also remarkably economical, both with dialogue and action, drawing us in, forcing our imaginations into overdrive as it moves inexorably towards a climax you can hardly predict. Thoroughly engaging, the film is also subtly but cleverly made in all respects; little wonder it was invited to Official Competition at Cannes. German born Moll is working on French film terrain – and doing it very well."
Andrew L. Urban

"Intriguing and thoroughly thought provoking, Harry, He is Here to Help is a suspenseful thriller that takes us deep into a world where the answers aren’t always provided. In fact we are never sure where the plot is leading us. And like Hitchcock thrillers, the dark side of the story is left well and truly to the powers of our imagination. Well structured with a strong script, we respond immediately to Michel (Laurent Lucas, understated), his family and their predicament. A working class young couple with three children – and yes, it’s hot in the car with no air conditioning, and how do they keep their patience with disgruntled children and interfering parents? Enter Harry. Someone said there is nothing more frightening than meeting a smiling stranger in a rest room, who professes to know you and you don’t remember. Even more frightening when they remember details about you that even you have forgotten! And Sergei Lopez is mesmerising as Harry. An enigma, we never quite put our finger on what it is about Harry that is so disturbing. After all, he means well (as the French title tells us). Lopez creates a haunting character that is both terrifying and compelling. A total paradox, Harry is the epitome of self restraint, while also being totally out of control. Beautifully directed with superb performances (the children deserve a special mention), Harry, He is Here to Help is an edgy experience – one you won’t want to miss."
Louise Keller

"The opening (and best) scenes in Harry He's Here To Help use the classic thriller ploy of generating suspense, and uneasy comedy, through just slightly caricaturing minor everyday tensions. Michel's first encounter with Harry is a memorable example of this: it's nerve wracking not because anything very gruesome is about to happen, but because it's a scene we've all lived through. Harry, an effusive playboy who is tone deaf to embarrassment, keeps burbling on about the schooldays he and Michel spent together; Michel stares blankly at him and mutters that he can never remember faces. The film is supposed to start from this jittery mundanity and work up into full-blown melodrama, but it's hard to pull off such a shift of tone without losing the faith of the audience along the way. As in a lot of psychological thrillers, the 'psychology' is a leaning tower of convenient assumptions piled on top of each other. There's no persuasive reason why Harry has been so obsessed with Michel for so long (there doesn't seem to be anything homoerotic involved). Nor is it likely that a busy young couple like Michel and Claire would just stand back and let a clearly nutty stranger gatecrash their lives. Admittedly, the second half of the film is intended to have a dreamlike, irrational texture: one of director Domenik Moll's more 'Hitchcockian' traits is the way he circles round various absurd images - a shocking pink bathroom, a running gag about dentistry, Michel's science fiction novel about flying monkeys - as if he were haunted by them and had vowed to work them into the script at all costs. While the film is overlong, and its last third is slack and anticlimactic (there's a poorly managed subplot about Michel's brother) this is partly because Moll has more ideas than he can fit into the conventional thriller format. Beneath the melodrama, there seems to be another, more interesting story - perhaps the story Michel winds up writing, 'The Eggs' - that we never get to see."
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

Q & A with DOMINIK MOLL

HARRY, HE IS HERE TO HELP (M)
Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien

CAST: Laurent Lucas, Sergi Lopez, Mathilde Seigner

PRODUCER: Michel Saint-Jean

DIRECTOR: Dominik Moll

SCRIPT: Dominik Moll, Gilles Marchand

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthieu Poirot-Delpech

EDITOR: Yannick Kergoat

MUSIC: David Sinclair-Whitaker

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michel Barthelemy

RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: New Vision

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 1, 2001

French with English Subtitles

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