Patrice Laconte may be the best French director around these days. This isn’t saying much considering his competition consists of blowhards like Catherine Breillat (Anatomy of Hell), Bruno Dumont (Twentynine Palms), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie), and François Ozon (Swimming Pool). I didn’t care much for Laconte’s limp Man On the Train but Intimate Strangers connected in small but vital ways.
The story centers upon Anna (Bonnaire), an unhappy wife who mistakenly unloads her marital woes on someone she thinks is a therapist, but is, in fact, a tax accountant. This misunderstanding is soon straightened out but Anna still continues to see him. A sexual tension develops because Wiilliam (Luchini) the accountant–a lonely bachelor himself–has fallen in love with Anna’s whose only interest is in patching up her marriage. It’s interesting how Laconte transforms Anna in the course of the movie, becoming more beautiful and luminous as she grows more self-confident, more at peace.
The surprise here is how Intimate Strangers stays the course. It doesn’t pull a Hollywood style ending, where it might well have descended into trite psychodrama, once Anna’s husband makes his appearance in William’s office. Intimate Strangers is certainly honest in its portrayal of these two lost and pining souls, a wonderful study of friendship that unfortunately goes adrift in its rather spiritless telling. Laconte may stay true to his characters, but he doesn’t inject anything unique or exciting here either. Being honest is commendable, the performances are top-rate and funny, but the movie left much to be desired. Still, it’s pleasant, compelling, worth a look.
Directed by: Patrice Leconte
Written by: Jérôme Tonnerre
Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire, Fabrice Luchini, Michel Duchaussoy, Anne Brochet, Gilbert Melki