Photo: TeleCinco Cinema
Before We Vanish by Calum Reed Film

Perfect Strangers | Manolo Caro

February 14, 2019

Manolo Caro’s Perfect Strangers asks the question: how much do we really know about our nearest and dearest? Based on Paolo Genovese’s 2016 Italian comedy, this script about a dinner party gone wrong is clearly proving popular with filmmakers, having already received the remake treatment by directors from Spain, Greece, South Korea, and China. One can see the appeal: This comedy of manners about seven friends who surrender their cell phones and analyze each other’s calls and messages opens itself up to lots of interesting ideas, unravelling the double lives that our phones allow us to lead. Set on the eve of a lunar eclipse — just to heighten the sense of impending chaos — Caro’s Perfect Strangers begins tamely before growing unsettlingly tense once the group learn each other’s deepest secrets.

In the manner of a true ensemble piece, each of the actors here get something to sink their teeth into — and largely do so with successful results. Cecilia Suarez stands out as the controlling hostess, continually stirring the pot, while Mariana Trevino makes for a convincingly erratic, downtrodden wife. Even when serious relationship issues concerning infidelity and sexuality are revealed, Caro’s film confidently straddles the line between acerbic melodrama and disorderly comedy, conjuring up scenes of emotional turmoil to which laughter feels like a wicked yet natural response. One too many late plot twists threaten to drag the film into over-the-top absurdity, but for the most part, Perfect Strangers is a deliciously no-holds-barred chamber-piece that keeps its audience rapt until the very end.

Published as part of Before We Vanish | Issue 1.