Perfect Strangers

Strong coarse language.

Italy 2016
Director: Paolo Genovese
Featuring: Giuseppe Battiston, Anna Foglietta, Marco Giallini, Edoardo Leo, Valerio Mastandrea.
Language: Italian
Running time: 96 minutes
Original review: Louise Keller; Urbancinefile
Extracted by: Mark Horner

Squirm a little; squirm a lot... Relationships falter and friendships are shredded in this techno-relevant Italian comedy of errors in which the mobile phone is revealed to be 'the black box of our lives' director and co-writer Paolo Genovese has fun with the concept of exploring the consequences, when long time friends lay their phones on the dinner table and allow the ensuing phone calls, text and Whats App messages to be fodder for scrutiny.

The sensational issues range from predictable ones about infidelity to those about sexuality, parental relationships, loss of virginity, pregnancy, parenthood, ex-spouse relationships, illicit fantasies and insecurities, reinforcing the fact that everyone potentially has a secret life - or at least a secret or two. There are surprises, of course, ironies and confrontations as the guests at the dinner party for eight (but of which there are only seven) find themselves exposed and vulnerable when thrust out of their comfort zone.

There is enough variety in the revelations to make pretty much every audience member squirm somewhat in their seats as we share the feelings of guilt, angst and recognition. The fact that our mobile phone is such a personal and pivotal tool in each of our lives is reinforced - in the unlikely case that we had forgotten.

All the performances ring true while the central plot point involving the swapping of two identical phones between their respective owners in a bid to protect the family man is central. The ramifications are unexpected. The eclipse of the moon takes place during this same evening; the moon is symbolically out of the shadow by the time all the revelations have taken place and resolutions are underway. It may not be perfect - there are a couple of small errors and the characters are not altogether likeable. In fact, no-one comes out squeaky clean. But that's par for the course. Whether or not you buy the resolution is another issue.

It's an entertaining piece that touches raw nerves, offers black humour and throws caution to the wind as anything and everything goes when it comes to exposing the truth.