The most successful French movie exports in recent years have been psychological thrillers, led by Michel Haneke’s 2005 Caché (Hidden), Jacques Audiard’s De Battre Mon Coeur S’est Arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, 2005) and Ne le Dis à Personne (Tell No One, 2006), directed by and starring Guillaume Canet.
A new thriller, Pour Elle (For Her), directed by Fred Cavayé and starring Vincent Lindon and Diane Kruger, deserves similar worldwide recognition. Slickly made and well acted, Pour Elle is about a French teacher in Paris, Julien (Lindon), whose seemingly perfect family life is torn apart by the arrest of his wife Lisa (Kruger) for murder. Convinced of her innocence but unable to prove it, he embarks on a plan to help her escape from jail (without her prior knowledge).
As in so many thrillers, one has to forgive certain implausibilities. Surely, for example, it would have been easier for him to set about gathering evidence to have her released through legal means than planning a highly dangerous escape? In fact, this film is not so much a whodunnit as a letsnotbotheraboutwhodunnit. What is more, it seems highly unlikely that a run-of-the-mill teacher would suddenly discover all the firearms skills to outwit scores of highly trained marksmen.
That said, the movie is gripping throughout, with genuinely exciting chase sequences. There are also a number of moving scenes as Julien copes with suddenly becoming a single parent to their young son, Oscar, who becomes progressively less interested in accepting his mother’s affection when he and his father visit her in jail. Set against the close father-son bond of Julien and Oscar, we observe the dysfunctional relationship Julien has with his own father (played by Olivier Perrier) as he becomes more and more obsessed with his escape plan.
It should be mentioned that, unlike Caché, which explored questions of race and difference with sensitivity, Pour Elle portrays all the low-life criminals as being of Arab origin, harking back to French thrillers of 20 years ago.
Without giving away the ending, I feel that Cavayé would have made a much more memorable film if he had opted for a grittier, truer-to-life conclusion; but this does not take away from the fact that Pour Elle is a well-paced, affecting and ultimately hugely enjoyable piece of filmmaking.Favorite