Two splendid performances & a genuinely unusual story make Read My Lips (Sur mes levres, 2001) one of the finer films for the new millennium, with reassurance that the greatness of French cinema did not end with the deaths of the previous century's great ones.
Carla (Emmanuelle Devos) is a mousy misfit, a secretary whose deafness keeps her almost friendless in her work-a-day world, feeling pushed around & unappreciated, overlooked for promotions, with no one paying enough attention to her to care if she's got a chip on her shoulder or not.
She's instructed to hire an assistant since she can't keep up with her workload. She selects an ex-con, Paul (Vincent Cassel), certain she'll be able to lord over a man desperate for any job. He'd like to go straight if only circumstances would allow, & they may not. He, too, feels himself to be outcast from society, forced toward bad decisions not entirely his own fault.
When these two bleak hearts collide, a truly unusual romance erupts, during which each injured soul attempts to gain control over the other, using whatever weakness or insecurity the other may possess to get the upper hand.
If this had not turned into a caper film halfway through, it would still have been a great piece of cinema on the strength of its portrayal of two oddball, lonely, insecure people continuously power-tripping one another, deplorable in their expressions of neediness & fear & love.
It all turns into a caper-film, with Carla's lip-reading skills important to pulling off the crime, & this layer of the film is also extremely well done. It makes for a double-whammy of a satisfying movie.
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