Anything For Her (Pour Elle) - DVD Review

'what it lacks in Hollywood-required pyrotechnics it more than makes up for in emotional manipulation'

Recently re-made by Hollywood as Russell Crowe vehicle The Next Three Days, Anything For Her only made it across the channel from its native France to the UK in Summer 2009, marking an extremely short elapsed time between foreign arrival and US remake.

Although Fred Cavayé's thriller lacks the Luc Bessson-esque action trappings that Hollywood normally shoots for when it picks the remake wheat from the remake chaff, it's still easy to see why Anything For Her was tapped as having the goods necessary to ensure an English-language version would find an audience. Julien's (Vincent Lindon) transformation from doting husband to desperate prison break-planner is fairly easy to relate to, even though the circumstances are obviously not. The aura of tension and wrought emotion that the film generates is impressive and it's easy to imagine a Hollywood executive dreaming of what could be achieved on a bigger budget, given what the naturalistic feel of the film's opening third achieves.

Cavayé's direction has a lot to answer for. As the imprisoned Lisa's (Diane Kruger) final appeal is turned down, Julien returns to his parent's home where the waiting family are gathered to hear the verdict. In a simple scene, which lasts less than thirty seconds, three years of pent up anger, injustice and despair are released by a set of characters, at least one of whom we never see again. It's a remarkable scene, made all the more remarkable that throughout, not one character utters a single line of dialogue. The director uses scenes like this to move the plot on quickly, employing a similar tactic in the brief meeting between Julien and escape expert Henri Pasquet (Olivier Marchal) which skimps on the dialogue but still manages to bubble with unspoken revelation and life-threatening risk.

For all the benefits of Cavayé's brevity, occasionally it feels like he's in too much of a rush. In modern film-making the montage must be considered almost as lazy as the voiceover and Cavayé here wanders off into not one but two atypical and uninspired trawls through Julien's 'planning' phase. The final outcome of the escape plan too feels unnecessarily hurried, in particular a sequence in an airport, which appears to forget all of the director's carefully crafted tension-building from earlier on in the piece.

The early moments of brilliance though are enough to see Anything For Her through in the end. What it lacks in Hollywood-required pyrotechnics it more than makes up for in emotional manipulation, delivered to the audience primarily through Lindon's tense and haggard performance, which draws you in to the world of a man who has lost almost everything and is about to gamble with the little he has left. Shows what can be achieved with what in other hands could have been a workmanlike, below average, thriller.

Look further...

'Cavayé pushes it all through with a lean immediacy and by keeping at least one eye on the emotions of man, wife and child while fixing the other on the mechanics of tension' - Time Out London, 4/5

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