Perfect Strangers - Review 7

11 September 2003
by Ron Banks
Rating: 3.5/5

FAIRYTALE INTO NIGHTMARE Preston's PERFECT STRANGERS plays out the idea of desire, deception and the imperfection of relationships in chilling fashion, sometimes in ways that are far too icy for anyone's own good

Like a Japanese Story, it's just not possible to comment on the plot twist that takes Melanie's physical and psychological journey into dangerous waters both literal and metaphorical. Lets just say that the disaster in the shack is followed by a tremendous storm at sea – filmed very convincingly – that tests Melanie to the limits of her survival instincts. But in becoming a survivor, the power between the man and woman shifts back to Melanie, who must begin to live by her own wits.

The problem however, is that the psychological pressures of coping with dangerous events send Melanie adrift in yet another fantasy world. This is a world that becomes increasingly erratic and detached from reality. The film shifts gears again to Gothic mode with Melanie's own behaviour quite frightening in its ruthlessness – the kind of extreme reaction that drives her towards despair and misery. Blake gives a wonderfully resonant performance as the woman who's dream of a handsome prince rescuing her from the dullness of ordinary life rapidly turns into a nightmare. She is on screen virtually the entire time. Conveying the downward spiral of her character towards a particular kind of fantasy-fed madness with remarkable subtlety and sensitivity.

Neill has the easier task in conveying his character's killer charm, but he's one of those actors who seems to know instinctively how to play the seducer without seeming too loathsome.

The third character in this tale is the New Zealand coastline itself, which with its winter light and stormy seas is both threatening and beautiful. The scenes of spray drenched boats entering dangerous harbours where the waves crash on the rocks are stunning and provide a haunting background for this sometimes macabre tale that will keep you guessing.