Intimate Strangers

Never Talk to Strangers

It was rainy. It was dreary. It was a typical film noir movie. Gentle knocks are heard from an office door. It could only come from a beautiful woman, the proverbial damsel in distress. She’s in trouble and has come to seek for help.

Ah, what a familiar scene. The French thriller “Intimate Strangers” knocks back at it with a twist. This time, Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire), the beautiful woman, arrives at the wrong door. Instead of seeing a psychiatrist, she ends up meeting a tax accountant named William (Fabrice Luchini). And the kicker here is that William, perhaps curious of this troubled beauty, pretends to be her psychiatrist. He figures there’s no harm in it. Maybe all the woman needs is an ear to listen. Just maybe.

My initial reaction is that the premise is too twisted to be convincing. Yet, as the movie plays out, it’s insane how the scenario slowly become plausible. “Intimate Strangers” is one of the weirdest yet also one of the best executed thrillers in recent years. It’s truly extraordinary in terms of plotting. The story is always moving in interesting directions while keeping the tension between the two characters always high. This is an astonishing feat, considering most of the scenes take place in the same room where two people are simply talking.

The thrill factor has to do with changing perceptions. The two characters are shady and hard to pinpoint and our sympathies go back and forth like a tennis ball. At one point, I was worried about Anna, as William could be one of these perverts who’ll do anything to become intimate with a beautiful woman. At another point, I was nervous for William, because he has no psychiatric training and he could be dealing with a total loony. Both characters are trapped in volatile circumstances and it’s palpable how one of them (or even both of them) could truly lose their minds and go psycho.

What makes the film work so well is the acting. Actors Bonnaire and Luchini play their parts so precisely that we really buy these to be believable people and not just pawns to the screenplay’s twists. But the true master here is filmmaker Patrice Laconte, for it’s uncanny how he employs a first-rate Hitchcockian suspense mostly through dialogue and barely with any action. For an adult psychological thriller, “Intimate Strangers” is a must-see, a must-hear, a must-experience. I highly recommend it from one stranger to another. Will you trust a stranger like me?

Grade: A

Sandrine Bonnaire, Fabrice Luchini, Michel Duchaussoy, Anne Brochet, Gilbert Melki, Laurent Gamelon, Hélène Surgère, and Urbain Cancelier
Screenplay by
Jérôme Tonnerre
Directed by
Patrice Laconte
Rated R for sexual dialogue