Perfect Strangers - Review 16

2 October 2003
by Paul Le Petit
Rating: **** (Four stars)

She's a young woman with a lust for drink and good men – although she hasn't managed to find too many of those in her life. So when Melanie (Rachael Blake) goes out drinking on a Friday night with her girlfriends, it would be unfair to say they're on the prowl, but they're certainly not averse to a good offer.

Which is what she gets when a suave stranger (Sam Neill) offers a light for her cigarette, a drink and a bit of friendship. It leads to a night out which ends when he takes her, not home, but to his boat tied up at a jetty.

It's all a little romantic –the boat, the champagne, the wooden surfaces, but the next morning romance turns into a nightmare...

This is just the start of a story that leaves the viewer guessing to the end, that realises a lot of fears and fantasies along the way, and uses everything – the skill of the performers and the startling settings which range from banteringly beautiful to menacingly malevolent.

Director Gaylene Preston has produced a little gem here, a film of great atmosphere using its actors to the full.

Neill is at his most assured until – well we won't go into that – and Blake has found a work in which to showcase her abilities, her desperation and angst of any number of intelligent young people.

This is a roller coaster of a ride loaded with thrills and spills galore and Preston proves that New Zealand filmmakers with a different view of the world can turn anything – romance included – upside down.