There is more than just a little Hitchcockian mischief at work in "Harry, He is Here to Help", an artfully entertaining psychological thriller by German-born French filmmaker Dominik Moll
But it's an affectionate, thoughtfully crafted homage that plays on the master's pet themes of guilt exchange and repressed desires rather than simply aping his visual style.
Aside from a title that's a little clunky in either language, the picture should scare up some healthy numbers in France and could be a respectable art house performer on the other side of the Atlantic.
In the midst of a particularly stressful road trip, Michel Laurent
Lucas), his wife Claire (Mathilde Seigner
) and their three young daughters take a fateful bathroom break at a highway rest stop.
While washing his hands, Michel encounters Harry (Sergi Lopez), an old classmate he really doesn't remember. But Michel obviously made a major impact on Harry, who can not only recite poetry Michel wrote for the school newspaper, he also used to date his ex-girlfriends.
We're talking scary obsession here.
But before Michel has a chance to pick up the warning signs, Harry manages to invite himself and his sweet but dim fiancee Plum (Sophie Guillemin
) over to their ramshackle vacation home.
Determined to help simplify Michel's life so that he can go back to some long-unfinished writing, Harry makes a number of increasingly consequential decisions on his unwitting host's behalf.
Of course it doesn't take too long to realize that the trouble with Harry is that there's a certified psycho lying just beneath the Zen-like surface.
But while everybody knows early on that no good can come of Harry's creepily affable presence, it's fun watching Lopez, an actor previously known for a series of nice-guy roles, insinuate himself into their dysfunctional lives, seeping in and taking hold like an opportunistic disease.
Director Moll, who wrote the screenplay along with Gilles Marchand
, isn't afraid to mix a little humor in with the darker stuff which, for the most part, is tastefully played out offscreen.
The gently macabre tone is further enhanced by Matthieu Poirot-Delpech's elegantly moody cinematography and a neatly ironic, piano-driven score composed by old pro David Sinclair Whitaker, who used to make spines tingle for numerous vintage Hammer films.
HARRY, HE IS HERE TO HELP
Director: Dominik Moll
Producer: Michel Saint-Jean
Screenwriter: Dominik Moll
Director of photography:
Editor: Yannick Kergoat
Costume designer: Virginie Montel
Music: David Sinclair Whitaker
Michel: Laurent Lucas
Harry: Sergi Lopez
Claire: Mathilde Seigner
Plum: Sophie Guillemin
Michel's mother: Liliane Rovere
Michel's father: Dominique Rozan
Running time -- 117 minutes