Anything for Her

Anything for Her (Pour elle en Fran├žais) is a prison break movie, although like its title indicates, it’s much more than that. It’s far more concerned about a man’s affection and devotion for his wife, and how far he’d be willing to go in order to rescue her from a prison that she’s in despite vehemently pleading her innocence. He only has her word, against a mountain of evidence, but because of his love for her, it doesn’t really matter if she did it. He believes her, and that’s all that matters. Isn’t that sweet?

Let’s backtrack, much like the film does. It begins three years prior to the prison breakout, where we learn the events leading up to the imprisonment, and the toll it takes on each person. There are three main players here: Julien (Vincent Lindon), the determined husband; Lisa (Diane Kruger), the wife, charged with murder and is seen trying to wash a mysterious red spot from her coat just moments prior to her arrest; and Oscar (Lancelot Roch), the couple’s child, who begins the film too young to comprehend the situation, but grows up wondering when mom’s going to come home.

Fast forward a number of months and we see how Lisa’s appeals have failed, and the emotional and physical impact it has taken on all parties. I don’t want to spoil it, but her being in jail doesn’t benefit anyone, believe me. We also get a flashback to the night of the incident, although it’s left up to you whether or not what is depicted is what truly happened. The decision is soon made: Lisa must be broken out of jail. The only problem is that Julien is an everyman, and if he gets caught, his son will be without a home.

I don’t think it’s spoiling too much by saying that chase scenes happen after the prison break, and at this point it’s more about whether or not the couple will be caught than about who did what to whom. As one character says: “It’s not about escaping — that’s easy. The trouble is staying free.” It’s here when Anything for Her really gets exciting. They’re on the run, you see, and any wrong turn could land both of them in jail. The stakes are high, and the final few scenes are incredibly tense as a result.

However, the genius of Anything for Her is that it doesn’t just ramp the intensity up to 10 and leave it there; it allows for character moments, many of them, in fact, that make it a powerful drama as well as a tense thriller. You get that reunion between mother and son, and you feel the disconnect that three years has forced. It’s tender and sweet and makes the movie more than just simple-minded thriller about a determined man attempting to rescue his wrongfully accused wife. Okay, even if that’s all it was, the film would still probably work with a premise like that.

It doesn’t take its time to get going, and once the plot starts, it takes a lot to get it stopped. This is good, as it builds momentum from beginning to finish, even though it gives us those human moments — moments in which we can catch our breath and appreciate the parts that came before. Anything for Her doesn’t exactly speed by; it savors the 97 minutes it’s given and makes them count.

There are some good performances in Anything for Her. The lead is Vincent Lindon, a stoic man who might not have much emotional range, but his determination is enough to make you care for him. Diane Kruger gets the more emotional part as the woman struggling to cope with her prison sentence, and there’s one scene here which is incredibly strong. Even the child actor, Lancelot Roch, playing the son, is quite good for a child actor, if that’s saying anything.

Some of this doesn’t work. There’s an odd relationship between Julien and his parents that doesn’t get enough time to brew — and is not saved by the final scene they share together — and there’s an odd subplot involving a woman at the park that goes nowhere and only amounts to two scenes. Its inclusion baffles me. If it was to enhance the paranoia of the film, it failed, which is the same result if its intent was to do anything but pad running time. It’s not like the woman was flirting with Julien and his dismissal of her was to show how faithful he was. And if that was the purpose, it wasn’t executed very well.

I should mention now that the film is in French, and if you don’t speak French, you’ll have to read subtitles. Or, if you prefer, you could see a longer version, in English, titled The Next Three Days. It came out in 2010 (the same year Anything for Her was released on DVD in North America, presumably to make some money off the remake), and while it isn’t as good — it’s bloated, is the main problem — it’s still enjoyable.

Anything for Her is a suspenseful thriller, one that slowly builds momentum until it’s rolling hard and fast enough to crush any criticism one can levy against it. It gives you enough breaks for the drama to work and for you to reflect upon earlier moments, and it contains good performances by all three leading actors. This is a lean, mean thriller that’s absolutely worth your time, as long as you speak French or don’t mind reading subtitles. You’ll be happy you did.

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