Starring: Giuseppe Battiston, Anna Foglietta, Marco Giallini
Director: Paolo Genovese
Running Time: 97 mins
Perfect Strangers (Perfetti sconosciuti) is an Italian film about a group of seven friends who get together for a dinner party, and decide to play a game. Placing each of their phones on the table, they agree to share the content of every message they receive, as they have nothing to hide. However, it soon appears that this is going to be no normal evening.
This is a brilliant film. With a simple and ingenious premise, it’s a tense and enthralling piece complete with beautifully written dialogue, fantastic performances, great humour, and a story that’s both exciting and devastatingly uncomfortable from a social perspective, full of riveting twists, turns and more centring on seven enthralling characters.
There’s a lot that this film has to offer, but what I found most impressive was how it manages to make a story that’s inevitably going to feature a whole lot of arguing and tension still focus heavily on the characters, keeping you invested in each of the seven’s individual intentions rather than simply descending into endless arguing and shouting.
Obviously, when you have seven people revealing everything about their lives to one another, there’s going to be controversy, and this film tells a story that’s pretty much the worst case scenario. Although it does feel fairly preposterous, I was really impressed how the film made this an exercise in characterisation more than anything else, as you learn more and more about the pysches of each individual as each new message comes through, as well as coming to understand each of their relationships better as they discuss the fallour from each message together.
So, this isn’t just a film about peering into these people’s private lives and seeing them fight, but rather about learning about them as people, which I found absolutely riveting.
However, there is still a fantastic element to the revelation of each new message throughout. Particularly in the opening act, the tension while waiting for each new message to come through is absolutely brilliant, and even if they are innocuous, they always spark interesting and often dramatic conversation afterwards, slowly chipping away at the sanctity of the evening.
Once again, it’s often not the content of the message that’s the exciting bit, but the impact that it has on both the individual who receives it as well as the group as a whole, but it’s a premise that creates a fantastically tense and exciting story structure for you as the viewer throughout, elevating this to something even more entertaining than a more run-of-the-mill dialogue-driven drama.
When it comes to that dialogue, I have to say that this film does a fantastic job. On the one hand, its sharp and realistic dialogue is integral to make the characters’ conflicts all the more convincing, and as such makes for a riveting watch, quietly and sleekly crafting a path for tension to come about, all the while feeling exactly like you’re listening to a group of real friends sitting down for a normal dinner, undoubtedly the film’s strongest point.
On the other hand, there’s a combination of thrilling dark humour and a degree of comic melodrama here that adds to the fun of it all. While it is a fiercely enthralling and exciting watch, you’ll still be laughing a lot throughout, whether it be at some of its darker, more bitter comedy, or simply the farce of the entire situation, with a group of friends’ long relationship getting so dramatically strained in the space of an evening, and from such a small change in the way they present themselves.
So, funny, riveting and endlessly exciting, Perfect Strangers pretty much has it all when it comes to making a great movie, and a lot of that is down to the brilliant work of director Paolo Genovese. While the screenplay is brilliantly written, and all of the actors put in fantastic performances that work both with the film’s dramatic and comic elements, Genovese manages to pull it all together into a piece that works almost flawlessly.
At only 97 minutes, the film is a concise and therefore even sharper piece, packing a real punch over the course of an incredibly fast-paced hour and a half, while its seamless combination of drama and comedy, as well as the fantastic introduction of extreme melodrama into the real world, all prove how well-directed a movie this is, and it makes for a thoroughly engaging and sleek end product that’s a real treat to watch.
There’s so much that this film does right, but I will say that its ending is its one and only real sticking point. It’s a strange and unexpected conclusion given what’s come before it, and although it offers a rather poignant conclusion, it feels a little out of place and unfortunately underwhelming, which was a little disappointing to see in the end.
Overall, though, I absolutely loved Perfect Strangers. A film that’s full of intrigue and entertainment, it’s both an interesting character piece and a tense thriller, complete with endless devastatingly uncomfortable moments that will make you gasp and sigh, as well as a screenplay with such strong dialogue that you’ll be fully convinced by almost every moment, with great performances, humour and unpredictability to boot, all brought together brilliantly by director Paolo Genovese, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.3.