Everyone, at some point in their lives, has been a fool for love, doing the most reckless things for the person who has stolen their heart, but the protagonist of co-writer and director Fred Cavayé’s debut film takes this a step further than most. In a neat twist on the prison break genre, popularised by such cinematic greats as The Great Escape (1963), Cool Hand Luke (1967) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Cavayé’s film cunningly switches the action from inside the prison to the outside world, where loving husband Julien (Vincent Lindon) plots to break his beautiful wife, Lisa (Diane Kruger), out of jail and then abscond with their young son to a place far out of reach of the French authorities.
As exciting a premise as this is, the plot of Anything for Her does unfortunately rely too much on incredulous developments, not least because Julien is not a criminal mastermind, as an early botched encounter with the Parisian underworld illustrates, but a middle-aged everyman and humble teacher who is driven by a desire to help his loved one, who has wrongly been convicted of murder. Although he is faced by a few hurdles - a tense confrontation with a drug dealer is particularly well played out - Julien overcomes most of them far too easily, and while chance will always have some bearings in such an audacious scheme, he enjoys so many lucky coincidences he must be carrying round a sackful of shamrocks.
Equally, his moral transformation from loving husband and doting father into a stop-at-nothing Jack Carter hardman character is too simplistically portrayed. The film also misses a trick by quickly assuaging any anxiety over his wife’s guilt, undermining an ambiguity that would have added extra spice to their seemingly perfect relationship.
And yet the film has many redeeming features. It is particularly well cast: Lindon is excellent as the tortured Julien, juggling bringing up a child, relating to his suicidal wife, confronting his parents’ scepticism over Lisa’s crime and plotting their escape; Kruger’s descent into despair is both unnerving and captivating; and even young Lancelot Roch plays their distressed moppet with suitable conviction. The rest of the cast is filled out with some wonderful character actors, including Olivier Marchal (a former French copper and the mastermind behind 36 Quai des Orfí¨vres) as a former prison escapee who becomes Julien’s Yoda, and the granite-faced Hammou Graí¯a, who plays the tough investigating detective hot on their trail.
Reservations over some of the plot mechanics aside, the final third of the film is also genuinely thrilling. Its breathless pace and some bold editing touches indicate that Cavayé does have a talent for suspense and could be a director to watch in the future. While this French-language film’s influences are certainly more Hollywood than European, lacking the edginess and profundity associated with the latter and bamboozling style over content, it still delivers enough excitement and drama to satisfy fans of prison break films. Forget plausibility, just sit back and enjoy Anything for Her‘s escapist fantasy.