Clara (Emmanuelle Devos) finds life to be a wearisome game of all work and no play: days spent as secretary in a construction firm, while her nights are filled with babysitting and/or one-sided chats with man-hungry friend, Annie (Olivier Bonamy).
Enter Paul (Vincent Cassel); a minor league thief, fresh out of gaol with a parole officer on his back and mobster Marchand (Olivier Gourmet) after his blood regarding the small matter of an unpaid debt. Under instructions to hire an assistant, Clara recruits the ex-con, hoping to relieve her own workload and maybe inject a little romance into her life. When Paul discovers his new boss can compensate for her hearing impediment by lip-reading, the stage is set for a pooling of resources during and after office hours.
As an inky black comedy that eventually lands deep in Film Noir territory, Sur Mes Levres finally emerges as a taut, character-driven thriller and, after a few bumps, finishes firmly in credit. Director Jacques Audiard does drop the ball on several occasions, thrusting the audience into Clara's soundless world whenever she takes her hearing aid out, but usually opting to keep the film score playing in the background thereby diluting the effect.. There's also the small matter of Clara uncharacteristically employing decidedly heavy tactics to get back at a contract-snatching colleague, and a sidebar involving Paul's parole officer which appears to have wandered in from another film entirely. These, however, are minor gripes when you consider the two excellent lead performances and some white knuckle set pieces.
Check out the two scenes where the audience really is at one with Clara: the first involving a respectful nod to Blue Velvet, where the heroine is trapped in a closet, unable to see or hear what is happening outside - every bit as unnerving as Jeffrey's Deep River Appartments ordeal. At just under the two hour mark, Sur Mes Levres is entirely abosorbing viewing and the closing 20 minutes will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Always the best place to be where thrillers are concerned, but by no means a common occurence.