Perfect Strangers
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
perfect strangers One of the most accomplished films from New Zealand in years, this lushly produced genre-buster is seriously involving and constantly surprising as it shifts in tone and continually reveals new things about its characters. After a boring day's work in a small-town cafe, Melanie (Blake) goes out with her pals to a local pub, gets drunk and picks up a sexy man (Neill) who whisks her off to his place, which happens to be a boat. But after waking up from her alcohol-induced sleep, she discovers he's taking her to a remote island cabin, where he starts professing his undying love. She's naturally a bit freaked out by this, and his further actions make her begin to wonder if she might be in danger....

I can't really say any more except that from this point the the story changes more than once, switching genres faster than we can keep track--comedy, romance, drama, thriller. But even that is misleading, because these shifts take place within the characters, as these two people (and a third interloper played by Robeck) continually reinvent themselves as unexpected heroes or villains. Or both. Preston's screenplay is ingenious, drawing on British classics like Cul-de-Sac and The Servant to constantly undermine audience expectations with subtle changes in the balance of power. Blake is terrific as a strong woman forced to draw on untapped inner reserves. It's a tour-de-force performance that throws us around like rag dolls as we root for her, then against her, then fear for her sanity, and more. Meanwhile, Neill is terrific as a sexy, enigmatic stranger who's also a bundle of revelations and contradictions. There are segments of this film that are so black they're almost unwatchable--seriously twisted stuff that blurs dreamy beauty with psychotic horror. Some of this is just plain grisly, while other scenes are soaked in emotional resonance. And while the plot is more than a little bit loopy, it also brilliantly straddles the fine line between sanity and madness.

cert 15tbc adult themes, violence, language 6.Nov.03 lff

dir-scr Gaylene Preston
with Rachael Blake, Sam Neill, Joel Tobeck
release UK Nov03 lff; NZ 26.Feb.04
03/New Zealand 1h38

Getting to know you: Neill and Blake

blake neill

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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... perfect strangers el dub, Vancouver: 4 out of 5 stars "I'm not going to ruin this movie for you by re-hashing the plot (the other reviewers have beat me to it). I can tell you that this is a very entertaining film with many different twists and turns. It is part suspense, part love story, part comedy, part adventure, etc. The lead actors are great in their quirky roles. The only fault I found with this movie is that the change the lead female character goes through happens too quickly. I think 5 or 10 more minutes to elaborate on this progression would have helped. Other than that this is a great flick and you should check it out!" (10.Dec.03)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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