“With a Friend Like Harry” is a low-boiling suspense film that is made all the more creepy by masquerading as an “unwelcome guest” comedy for an hour or so.The disguise works. If we believed right up front what Harry was capable of, his actions later would not startle us the way they do when we’ve come to accept him as nothing more than a pesky visitor.
The film begins with the family vacation from hell: a long car trip in the summer with no air-conditioning and three whiny kids in the backseat.
At a rest stop, the father, Michel (Laurent Lucas) runs into Harry (Sergi Lopez), an old classmate he hasn’t seen in 20 years and in fact has little memory of. Harry remembers him, though, and can even quote the poem Michel wrote for the school magazine — a poem Harry himself had virtually forgotten.
Michel and his wife, Claire (Mathilde Seigner), and their three young girls are headed for their vacation home in the country. Harry, meanwhile, is headed to Switzerland with Plum (Sophie Guillemin), his well-meaning but dimly lit fiancee. With a few subtle gestures, Harry and Plum have been invited to the cottage for drinks. Next thing you know, they’re staying over.
Soon Harry is ingratiating himself into the family, going so far as to buy Michel and Claire a new car (money is no object to Harry). But his non-sexual fondness and protective instincts toward Michel become disturbing, brought to a head when he encounters Michel’s overbearing parents.
It’s similar to “What About Bob?,” for example, with one clever difference: Instead of Michel being annoyed by Harry and everyone else loving him, pretty much EVERYONE is annoyed by him here. Claire, in particular, notices something is wrong with the situation, which puts her at odds with this increasingly dangerous man.When suspense is not being built, the proceedings are generally amusing, but there is also a constant longing for something more. An hour into it, I wondered if we were still seeing the exposition, with the real action still to come.