Film review: Anything for Her and The Necessities of Life

by David Larsen / 24 April, 2010
The hero of Anything for Her is an ordinary man living a nightmare after his wife is imprisoned for murder.


The title of Fred Cavayé's taut, beautifully constructed thriller Pour Elle translates simply as "for her". In English-language markets, this has been amended to Anything for Her. The assessment of English-language audiences implicit in that little tweak is not flattering.

The title "For Her" has a slight Hallmark-card earnestness to it; appropriately, because the film is about a 40-something school teacher head-over-heels in love with his much younger wife. But the question of exactly what he might be willing to do for her is left wide open, and becomes pressing a few minutes into the film when we see the wife imprisoned - wrongly? - for murder.

"Anything for Her", on the other hand, is not a phrase interested in leaving questions open. Right from the get-go, it tells you to expect melodrama, excess and a ringside seat as a regular guy throws away the rule book and does whatever it takes to save the love of his life. The implied assumption is that English-language audiences won't front up to a subtitled thriller unless they're promised a rollercoaster ride.

There is, in fact, a rollercoaster ride to be had here, but a great deal of the drama lies in getting to it. Cavayé sets up Julien (Vincent Lindon), his school-teacher hero, as an ordinary man living a nightmare. The evidence that gets his wife, Lisa (Inglourious Basterds' Diane Kruger), sentenced to 20 years behind bars is circumstantial, but overwhelmingly incriminating.

No one else believes in her innocence. As the years pass and the appeals fail and their young son becomes more and more resentful of his mother's absence, Lisa begins to look like a suicide risk. So what can Julien do?

Lindon is wholly convincing as a decent, average man forced to face up to the fact that answering this question is going to be difficult. It won't be the easy wish-fulfilment exercise you might find in a Hollywood telling of this story. A Hollywood hero would narrow his eyes and mutter, "Anything for her", and a few car chases later the world would obediently get out of his way. Julien has to come up with the sort of plan that might actually work.

And he does. And inevitably, things go wrong. The process unfolds with the economy and pace of the best suspense thrillers, and delivers a wholly satisfying ending. I wouldn't be surprised if Holly­wood does end up remaking this film, but I'd be astonished to see a remake half as intelligent or gritty as the original.

ANYTHING FOR HER, directed by Fred Cavayé.

French-Canadian director Benoît Pilon's The Necessities of Life is a sweet, simple story with a pace so slow I initially expected it to become boring. Instead, it became more and more absorbing.

In 1952, Inuit hunter Tivii (Natar Ungalaaq) is diagnosed with tuberculosis and forced to leave his wife and children for treatment in Quebec. He speaks no French and no one in the sanatorium speaks his language. Completely isolated in an alien environment, Tivii loses his will to live until a sympathetic nurse arranges to have an orphaned Inuit boy transferred to his ward.

The gradual shifts in Tivii's mental state, the slow growth of his relationships with the boy, the nurse and the handful of patients who can be bothered trying to communicate with him are almost the whole of this film. Ungalaaq's expressive features make it entirely satisfying to watch.

The title has a nice complexity to it, because the Canadian doctors are entirely right that Tivii needs the help they force on him, but at the same time entirely wrong: their failure to understand him nearly kills him.

Tivii's own notion of "the necessities of life" is simpler: all he wants from the world is land, water, people to love and animals to hunt. The story's warm minimalism hints that this is not a philosophy to sneer at.

THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE, directed by Benoît Pilon.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

School donations would be scrapped under Labour
76711 2017-07-21 07:40:06Z Education

School donations would be scrapped under Labour

by Mei Heron

Labour would give an extra $150 per student to every school that agreed to stop asking parents for so-called "voluntary" donations.

Read more
Transport Ministry whistleblowers feel vindicated by inquiry's findings
76707 2017-07-21 07:07:09Z Politics

Transport Ministry whistleblowers feel vindicated …

by Jane Patterson

Whistleblowers forced out of their jobs welcome a State Services report, but question the culture at the Ministry of Transport that ignored them.

Read more
Airways spends $11,417 on farewell book for departing CEO Ed Sims
76704 2017-07-21 06:41:19Z Business

Airways spends $11,417 on farewell book for depart…

by Zac Fleming

Airways says a review has been launched after a photobook which cost $11, 417 was gifted to its outgoing CEO Ed Sims.

Read more
A toxic culture may not be why Uber’s CEO was ousted
76421 2017-07-21 00:00:00Z World

A toxic culture may not be why Uber’s CEO was oust…

by Donna Chisholm

Travis Kalanick’s departure from Uber followed the firing of more than 20 staff after an internal investigation.

Read more
War for the Planet of the Apes – movie review
76658 2017-07-21 00:00:00Z Movies

War for the Planet of the Apes – movie review

by James Robins

The final instalment shows the Planet of the Apes trilogy has continued to evolve.

Read more
Whistleblowers forced out of job too early - inquiry
76671 2017-07-20 14:35:27Z Politics

Whistleblowers forced out of job too early - inqui…

by RNZ

Ministry of Transport whistleblowers suffered "unnecessary hurt" in a restructure process involving convicted fraudster Joanne Harrison.

Read more
Win tickets to Auckland Theatre Company’s Nell Gwynn
A Maori seats referendum is a bad idea – Brexit proves it
76639 2017-07-20 10:07:41Z Politics

A Maori seats referendum is a bad idea – Brexit pr…

by The Listener

The folly of reducing complexity to a single question has been amply demonstrated in the aftermath of Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

Read more