A review of “Intimate Strangers” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: R for frank adult language

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. In French with English subtitles

 

 

The enigmatic Patrice Leconte (Man on the Train, Girl on the Bridge) offers up a shrewdly observed analysis of the female psyche.

Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire) arrives at a Paris apartment building for her appointment with a new therapist.  She mistakenly ends up in the spare offices of conservative tax advisor William Faber (Fabrice Luchini), who reacts with good grace and aplomb.

So much aplomb, in fact, that he does not reveal to Anna her mistake.  William allows the mysterious woman to make repeated visits to his office, drinking in her accounts of an unfaithful husband, personal sexual explorations, and a truckload of guilt.

William’s ruse is ultimately exposed for what it is yet Anna continues to confide in him. A relationship develops, but the stakes have inexorably changed. 

Director Leconte has a gift for subtlety. His complicated strangers are cloaked in an aura of alleged tragedy and skeletons yet to be unearthed.  The atmosphere is one of erotic suspense and a combination of derision and deceit, glossed over by an impending doom of a score.

Unfortunately Strangers lacks the payoff of Leconte’s more accomplished works, trailing in its wake a lingering essence of promises unfulfilled. Bonnaire’s Anna is emotionally elusive and psychology damaged, reminiscent of one of Hitchcock’s imperturbable femme fatales. Luchini’s repressed desires are raw and select. Hélène Surgère adds essential comic relief as William’s nosy secretary Madame Mulon.