PERFECT STRANGERS (Perfetti sconosciuti) [2016]

Directed by Paolo Genovese

Written by Filippo Bologna (screenplay), Paolo Costella (screenplay)

Starring: Giuseppe Battiston, Anna Foglietta, Marco Giallini

As we move forward as a society, it is no secret that technology is slowly bridging the gap between private and public personal information. Just ask Ed Snowden. Perfect Strangers however concentrates on the mobile (cellular) phone, at one point referred to as a type of black box, storing important and often personal information about the owner. Are these phones tools to hide information? That certainly seems to be the message of this film, as seven friends gather for dinner and one of the hosts decides that all bets are off, as she convinces the rest of the group to relinquish their phones, some more hesitant than others. The deal is that any incoming messages or calls must be shared with the group.

A very interesting premise, this decision almost immediately kicks off a very predictable but funny film that could be set on a stage, as it doesn’t leave the house. Starting with a prank call from one of the friends, real messages and phone calls begin and secrets slowly begin to emerge. The first half of the film is much more funny, as what the friends learn about each other becomes darker, and the looks on their faces become decidedly more serious. There is a definite element of suspense as we wonder who will be ousted next, and how, despite the predictability of the plot. Secrets will be revealed, that much is obvious. But this film does a fine job of maintaining tension despite this.

The film uses the concept in many different ways; marital infidelity is a near guarantee given the premise. But a plethora of secrets bubble to the surface, as we get to know the sex lives of these people, as well as possible experimentations with sexuality. It is also interesting to watch how each character reacts when a secret of theirs is out in the open, whether it is minor or major. Furthermore, the reactions of their partners are almost perfect, though the melodrama could have been toned down a bit. Each new secret shines a light on the sort of people they are, not just the victim, but also the rest of the group in how they react to the new information. In this sense the film excels, as the film cleverly brings to the table seven clear and distinct personalities, all with different reactions to the truths they discover.

These events obviously create a fracture within the group, and one wonders if any of the relationships at the table will last the night. The quagmire of secrets hidden in mobile devices is certainly a real one, and one has to wonder if their partner has a pass-code to their phone, or refuses to let their partner rummage through it. It this an invasion of privacy? Or if two people are sharing their lives together, how much privacy is each partner permitted to have? It is an interesting debate to ruminate on once the film finishes.

While an infinitely interesting film that could certainly benefit from an English version given how fast the dialogue is, not to mention some great lines being lost in translation, Perfect Strangers has the viewer constantly guessing. But despite this, most of the results are rather predictable. Once the game is established, we have a pretty good idea where the film is headed. Regardless, this is an enjoyable and funny film that takes a serious look at how technology can appear to connect us, but often-times it  brings us further apart.

One and a half beers short of a sixer.