Directed by Jacques Audiard, starring Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Devos.
There's something about the intensity of Vincent Cassel onscreen that makes you wonder whether you want to be his friend or just give him a wide berth; 'Read My Lips' will have you wrestling with these conflicting emotions from minute to minute. What seems on the surface to be a story of two losers finding solace in each other goes right off in the opposite direction as director Audiard probes just how far people will go to get what and who they want.
Walked-on in her job, deaf architect's secretary Carla (Devos) longs for someone to soothe her after another pride-swallowing day at the office. When offered the chance to employ an assistant, she goes to the job centre and instead gives a wish list for her dream guy. What she gets is Paul (Cassel), a just out of the joint urchin who looks like he wants to end up behind bars all over again.
Knowledgeable about nothing except how to survive, Paul is shocked when Carla hires him and begins to wonder just what her idea of overtime will be. But a bond forms between the two as Carla blossoms with the backup of her street-smart charge and Paul comes to realise that his boss could be the best accomplice he's ever had.
There's nothing more galling than seeing two actors go through the motions on screen as they try to convince you there's some chemistry between them. But any letdowns you've had in cinemas in the past will be wiped away by the double act of Cassel and Devos. What they have here is worth paying into to see twice: a credible relationship which sees the balance of power swing between both and leaves you wondering if they're ever, ever going to get it together. What's stopping them is what drives Audiard's movie, a delicately constructed crime which brings 'Read My Lips' through comedy, romance and right into thriller territory.
It's a film about how people can change people and it's a joy to watch Devos blossom from the nerdy secretary into the siren who really doesn't realise what a siren she is. As for Cassel, he's mullet and moustache perfect as the lowlife who's actually far smarter than both he and you think - his ability to look wounded and look like he'll inflict wounds is brilliantly offset by Devos' calculating but no less passionate heroine.
But if Audiard's attention to character is meticulous throughout, it's backed up by a style which makes you swear you will never, ever go to see an American nail-biter again. He brilliantly uses sound to demonstrate Carla's distance from the world while the loose, handheld approach makes you feel like you're playing gooseberry to schemes, lust and just about everything that can happen in between. Audiard's Paris isn't what you expect either: building sites, lonely apartments, tacky bars and the high rises in the distance, prompting Carla and Paul to remember just how far they can get away if things go to plan. And the fun you'll have in watching them put thought into action…
Audiard cranks up the tension, sexual and otherwise, until you can't decide who's hustling who or if they're both in it for more than a pay-off. Don't worry, I won't spoil the surprise just make sure you see this movie. And bring a date too, after this you might look at each other in a whole new light.