Monday, 8 June 2009

Anything For Her

While the masses are chowing down on Hollywood junk food like Terminator Salvation, Night at the Museum 2 and Angels & Demons, the really good films are being made here in Europe and being watched by only a few – those who prefer great acting, tight direction, intelligent thought-provoking screenplays, and real atmosphere to brainless action and silly humour.

Let the Right One In (made in Sweden; photo on right), which I saw last week, had all of the good qualities mentioned above. But it is an incredibly dark (in every way) horror film about 12-year old kids. I’m not a big fan of horror or films about kids, so this will not rank among my favourites of the year, but there is no question that this is a brilliant film and far better than what’s coming out of Hollywood.

Anything For Her, directed by Fred CavayĆ©, also has all of the good qualities listed above. It’s a French thriller unlike any thriller I have ever seen (what a huge compliment right there). What do you do if you’re an ordinary school teacher whose wife has been sentenced to twenty years in prison for a murder she did not commit and you have exhausted all avenues of appeal and are left taking care of the two-year-old son and worrying about a suicidal wife. I can almost see myself doing exactly what Julien (played magnificently by Vincent Lindon) does, contemplating sacrificing everything that we mean by a decent settled life in order to save his wife. This film works best as a drama rather than a thriller and has my favourite dramatic scene of the year in it, but the thriller part works for me as well (though it’s really quite implausible and there is one very violent scene). With a series of coincidences constantly helping or hindering him, it plays out like some kind of war in heaven and the tension is non-stop, with some great suspense near the end. Unlike the many other implausible films I have seen this year, I generally felt that it was the protagonist, not the film, that was being stupid.

Anything For Her is a fairly short film and yet only feels rushed near the end (when it’s supposed to feel rushed). It has time to give us a real sense of Julien’s desperation as well as the family dynamics which play a key underlying role in the film. It’s an example of what thrillers and films in general can be if they are not aimed primarily at fifteen-year-old boys.

Anything For Her is so far my favourite film made in 2009. Finally, finally a film that did not disappoint me (as almost everything else I have seen this year has done). **** My mug is up.

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