She is a hearing-impaired woman who works as a secretary at a construction company. He is an ex-con who has just been released from prison. On the surface, it doesn’t look like there is even the slightest chance of these two becoming a romantic couple. Read My Lips is the cinematic representation of the phrase “Opposites attract”. A perfect blend of Hitchcockian thriller elements and tender romance, this film from French maverick filmmaker Jacques Audiard stars actor extraordinaire Vincent Cassel as Paul, the ex-con and the unusually beautiful and extremely adorable Emmanuelle Devos as the introverted woman Carla.
Branded “losers” by the society they inhabit, these two cross paths when she, overwhelmed by the immense pressures of her job, Carla decides to hire a male assistant to share the burden. She is in her 30s and he is in his 20s and although their initial confrontation is awkward, things gradually start to ease up a little. Paul learns that she has the ability to read lips and make out what everyone around her is talking about, including the insults that make behind her back. To them, she is a “dog” who somehow managed to acquire this very handsome young man. The sexual tension between gradually builds when on one occasion, he tries to force himself on her. Whether she wanted it or not is unclear but she takes advantage of this situation to get him to do something for her.
The favors just don’t stop there as Carla slowly learns that Paul is trying to go back to his former ways and has something planned in the near future that would make things complicated for both of them – more for her. Like I said earlier, Paul and Carla are not your ideal romantic couple that you often see in the movies. Carla decides to get involved in Paul’s scheme for, we assume, the kicks. She has been leading a frustratingly boring life for a long time and every time one of her friends talks about the flings they’ve been having lately, she feels pathetic. In Paul, she sees a potential mate – a reckless “bad boy” with a nice heart who may or may not rescue her from her not-so-happy existence.
It’s when Paul puts his plans in motion that the film veers into the white-knuckle thriller territory. A few scenes brought to mind Hitchcock’s Rear Window and North By Northwest. The film benefits from a taut screenplay and well-etched out characters and Audiard did the right thing by casting these two phenomenal actors. Alexandre Desplat’s memorable and poignant background score sets up the right mood and atmosphere and is so apt for the film. I adore this film and it belongs in my list of favorite romance films.