Perfect Strangers (Perfetti Sconosciuti) (2016)

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This Italian chamber piece is set at a dinner party where a group of friends, new and old, couples and singletons, gather at the home of Eva and Rocco. After a discussion about secrets, Eva suggests they all lay their phones on the table throughout the meal; any calls or messages must be shared with the group.

We learn a little about each couple: Lele and Carlotta squabble over an ageing parent and hide things from each other; Rocco and Eva have different ideas about parenting their teenage daughter; and Cosimo and Bianca are newly married. A latecomer is Peppe, who comes without his new girlfriend Lucilla who all are keen to meet. They banter, ridicule and nitpick like old friends do.

As the dinner progresses, messages are received and phones ring and the expected questions and inconsistencies arise. Some are red herrings, others are conundrums that unravel and slowly reveal themselves. Few there have nothing to hide and the friendships and values of the group are tested. Some small moments only emerge as significant at the end of the film when we, as the audience, see all.

The story has an unusual resolution which at first felt forced and unsatisfying but it framed the key theme of the narrative – are secrets best kept or revealed? The final image is unexpected and heart-warming.

Currently screening in cinemas

Bechdel test – pass
4 stars

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