Starring: Yoo Hae-jin, Kim Ji-soo, Cho Jin-woong
Director: Lee Jae-kyoo
Running Time: 116 mins
Intimate Strangers is a South Korean 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.
As part of my ongoing quest to watch every remake of Italy’s Perfect Strangers – a film that has been remade no less than 10 times in the last few years – we find ourselves with one of the closest adaptations to the original, South Korea’s Intimate Strangers.
Now, while this film succeeds in replicating the intensity and awkwardness of this dinner gone so, so wrong, furthered by entertaining performances and strong humour, it doesn’t quite have that sense of unbridled chaos that made the original so good, missing out on delivering the peak potential of this fantastic story.
First things first, though, I will say that this is a really fun watch. It’s not perfect, and doesn’t hold a candle to the Italian original, but it effectively combines a great sense of dark humour with riveting drama throughout, keeping you entirely engrossed in the many twists and turns over the course of the evening.
One thing that the film does well is stick close to the atmosphere that was created in the original, and while it has a few details here and there that set it slightly apart, it’s certainly the closest version in terms of atmosphere and entertainment value to the original movie. As a result, Intimate Strangers grabs you with the no-holds-barred forwardness when things start to go wrong, one of the greatest suits of the Italian film, but also plays it up in a darkly comic fashion that makes it a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
That excellent blend of dark comedy with the drama at hand comes together well thanks to Lee Jae-kyoo’s directing, which retains that sleek vibe which made the Italian original so memorable. In contrast, the French version was a little all over the place, the Spanish moved along at a lightning pace, and the Chinese took a very different tack, but Lee prioritises that sleekness throughout, and that makes South Korea’s Intimate Strangers great fun throughout, even when it doesn’t quite hit the heights of what its story can achieve.
And that is, rather unfortunately, where my biggest problem with Intimate Strangers comes in. It always seem slightly unfair to judge a film based on how it compares to an original, but when it’s a remake that deliberately sticks as close to the original as possible, it’s difficult not to contrast and compare, and in this case, feel a little disappointed.
In and of its own, Intimate Strangers is a great watch, and I thoroughly recommend it, but it unfortunately fails to deliver a heart-stopping thrill factor as the dinner party gets totally out of control, something that took the Italian original, and to an extent the Spanish remake as well, up to a whole different level.
While it’s a sleek, darkly comic watch that intrigues and entertains throughout, I didn’t feel like I finished this movie catching my breath, like I did in both the Italian and Spanish films, and I feel that there was a whole lot more that the film could have done to really ramp up the tension and awkwardness of the situation.
In part, the pace could have been faster – this is probably the most slow-moving version of the story I’ve seen – while the actors could have dialled up the intensity of their performances a little more over the course of the night, rather than staying at a more middling level that takes away from the potential of the chaos that develops through the story.
Having said all that, I still liked Intimate Strangers a lot. An entertaining, engaging and sleek film that sticks closely to its inspiration’s style and story, it has everything to keep you engrossed from beginning to end, coupled with good humour and riveting drama as part of the excellent screenplay, even if it doesn’t quite hit the heights that this story can definitely provide, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6 overall.