Opening with the sight of Julien (Vincent Lindon) speeding through the streets of an unspecified city, bloodied and bruised from some recent indiscretion, French thriller Anything for Her (Pour Elle) starts to play with the viewers’ expectations from the outset.
The film poses a simple enough question: What would you do if, while eating breakfast one morning with your child and partner, police arrived at your door to arrest your other half, leading to them being thrown in jail for the next 20 years? Choke on your Rice Krispies or try to free them?
As Julien’s wife Lisa (Diane Kruger, soon to be seen in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds) is arrested and dragged off to prison, an on-screen title tells us that these events cover the last three years, effectively placing most of the film in flashback.
From here the story gradually moves closer to the present, as Julien regularly takes his young son Oscar (Lancelot Roch) to visit Lisa in prison while all along attempting to prove her innocence of her boss’s murder.
Elements of the TV series’ Prison Break and 24 are given a Gallic sheen as writer/director Fred Cavayé lulls the viewer into thinking this might be a slow burner, before ramping up the action in the last 30 minutes.
A few too many bonding scenes between Julien and Oscar threaten to tip the film too far towards family drama, but a tight script and Lindon’s determined performance manage to bring things back on track.
Diane Kruger’s Lisa may be the reason for all the trouble but she’s never given too much screen time, Julien receiving the most attention.
Though the morals of the central protagonist’s actions are wildly dubious at times, the story rattles along at a fast enough pace to barely make this a problem. Also helping mix things up is the decision to play with the story’s timeline, a nice idea which thankfully doesn’t come across as overly contrived.
Combining action and emotion to great effect, hopefully helping to remove some of the stigma attached to foreign language films, Anything for Her should appeal to a wide audience.
In fact the film’s success blending genres no doubt the reason it’s just been snapped up for a Hollywood remake and retitled Next Three Days by Crash director and James Bond script doctor Paul Haggis.
Make sure you see the original first.
Anything for Her opens around the UK on Friday 5 June.
View the Anything for Her trailer: