Deaf secretary Carla (Devos) is tired of being treated as a dogsbody at the property development company, where her office colleagues invariably take the credit for her hard work. Socially too she's cast in a Cinderella role, babysitting for her friend Annie (Bonamy), whilst the latter hits the town.
Salvation, or at least the chance of revenge, arrives in the form of Carla's new work assistant, the greasy-haired, tattooed, ex-con Paul (Cassel). Utilizing her lip-reading skills, the duo hatch a scheme to rob violent nightclub-owner Marchand (Gourmet), who has already had Paul beaten up for defaulting on a debt.
"A love story in which the characters never make love", is how writer-director Jacques Audiard ("A Self-Made Hero", "See How They Fall") has described this inventive, genre-hopping thriller. From the outset Audiard manipulates the soundtrack to immerse us into Carla's fragile world, by switching her hearing-aids on and off. Nor is she a stereotypically saintly disabled character - embittered and jealous, she relishes the settling of old scores.
Stylishly composed by director of photography Mathieu Vadepied, "Sur Mes Lèvres" is substantially more than a mere hommage to Hitchcock's "Rear Window" or Louis Malle's "Lift to the Scaffold", two films to which it bears certain narrative echoes.
Thanks to its suspenseful screenplay and to the impressive lead performances of Devos and Cassel, it becomes an absorbing character study of two lonely and fearful outsider figures, who gradually recognize their mutual dependency.
In French with English subtitles.