Intimate Strangers

(Confidences trop Intimes)

The relationship at the center of Intimate Strangers comes about completely by accident.  William (Fabrice Luchini, Rien Sur Robert, On Guard!) is an introverted tax attorney.  One day, Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire, Femme Fatale, East-West) enters his office, thinking that he is her new psychiatrist, and before he can say anything, she begins talking about all of her problems to him.  There's really nothing else to Patrice Leconte's (The Man on the Train, The Girl on the Bridge) new film, as most of it is conversation between Anna and William.  What is nice is that Leconte made a film about two people gradually falling in love, yet the lion's share of their interaction is in William's office, and there is little to no physical contact between the two of them.

It brings a heightened sense of eroticism to the proceedings.  Deep down, each is attracted to the other, but there are so many things that stand in their way.  For one, Anna is married.  Most of the problems are related to her husband.  William wants to tell Anna that she has the wrong person, but he is drawn to her, and to the extremely personal nature of her 'confessions.'  Plus, William doesn't really get out much, so having an attractive woman come in and talk about her marital problems is like some strange dream.  She soon discovers that William is not her doctor, but still shows up for session.  There is something cathartic about venting to a complete stranger, one like William who is willing to listen.  When William confides to her Dr. Monnier (Michel Duchaussoy, La Mentale, Amen), Anna's actual psychiatrist, who works down the hall, he is very disapproving on William's continued sessions.

The sessions are like a game.  William has no idea if Anna is telling the truth, and some of her stories seem very outlandish.  She sometimes acts like she is baiting him, just to see what his reaction will be.  At other times, her behavior is very erratic, and it seems like she has some real problems.  They are like animals, warily circling each other.  Each is afraid to say what he/she is really feeling, lest they ruin this weird, wonderful relationship.  Once the viewer gets over the fact that William's actions are ethically dubious, they can settle into this uneven groove that Leconte establishes for the tone of the film, matching William's unprofessional opinion of Anna.  What is actually happening is pretty conventional, filmwise.  Anna is showing William something new.  He needs to break out of his rut that he's been in literally all his life.  His father was a tax attorney.  He house and his office are one and the same.  To Anna, William represents a kind of stability and dependability.  He is always there for her, especially with all this madness surrounding her husband.  Bonnaire and Luchini play nicely off each other.  It takes a certain level of acting to successfully play these characters, as much is conveyed through speaking, or gestures.  And, Intimate Strangers is a pretty talky movie, with just the two of them on screen for the majority of the film.  Although the ending is a little too conventional, that shouldn't detract from the rest of the film.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 43 minutes, Rated R for sexual dialogue.

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