France, Patrice Leconte (2004)
A completely engrossing movie about a woman who opens the wrong door to a psychiatrist’s office and begins telling the most intimate details of her unhappy marriage to a tax accountant. It takes a few more visits before William works up the nerve to tell Anna she’s made a mistake. When she learns the truth, and then decides to continue their professional relationship, the movie takes off in a new direction, with no clear end in sight.
Part psychological thriller, part romantic comedy, this is a film that requires you to pay attention, follow along, connect the dots, become engaged and collect your reward: the experience of two great performances in a wholly satisfying character drama. That almost the entire movie is set in one office without it ever feeling dull and claustrophobic is a reflection on the excellent performances by Sandrine Bonnaire and Fabrice Luchini, and the fluid camera work of director Patrice Leconte and his cinematographer Eduardo Serra, who shot the exquisite Girl With a Pearl Earring.
The camera is really the third major character, moving in and out of conversations, arcing around and over the couple, observing, intruding, and exploring their relationship. Often, the camera combines with the music to create a mood of tension, similar to the way a horror movie, or more appropriately, a Hitchcock film manipulates the audience.
Intimate Strangers reminded me of Before Sunset, another intelligent film that’s one long conversation between two interesting people who are testing the waters between them. In Intimate Strangers, there’s much more going on under the surface of those waters. [**** out of 5]