Harry, He's Here to Help

Dominik Moll's sly thriller (2000) is almost too clever for its own good. At its center is Michel, a nice-guy husband and father who finds—given a heat wave, three querulous little girls, a broken-down car, an even more broken-down country house—that a vacation can be far more stressful than any kind of work. Enter Harry, forgotten schoolmate from 20 years ago, who believes that every problem has a solution. He also believes, fervently and inexplicably, in Michel, whose adolescent poetry he can recite verbatim and whose high school sci-fi epic, “Flying Monkeys,” he yearns to see completed. So he sets about making Michel's familial problems “disappear.” We're in twisty Highsmith, Strangers on a Train territory, with Harry carrying out what could be the hidden, dark, evil yearnings of Michel's soul. Yet nobody's particularly dark or evil. Harry—played by the open, beaming Sergi Lopez, gentle hero of many a Poirier film—genuinely wants to help, though with friends like this . . . Moll sticks closer to his characters than Hitchcock or Chabrol and aspires to a less overweening God's-eye view. His vision of the evil accomplished in the name of love finds its best expression in more mundane and down-to-earth details, like Michel's parents' surprise gift to his family: a blindingly bright bathroom in a particularly gruesome shade of fuchsia that seems to spread like a malignant rash through the somber old house. 117 min.

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