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:: Perfect Strangers

No, it’s not the big screen version of that 80’s TV show with Balki and Cousin Larry. This Perfect Strangers is something else all together. Rachael Blake plays Melanie, a kind of New Zealand version of Reggie from Big Brother, she works in a fish and chips shop and speaks her mind. She meets a man in a bar and agrees to go to his place, not realising that his place is on a desolate, wind swept island. What he has in mind for her is so much more than a one night stand.

Written and directed by Gaylene Preston (Bread and Roses), Perfect Strangers is at first a little jarring. It has the mood of a gritty, realistic thriller yet the actions of Melanie and The Man (played by Sam Neill) make no real, rational sense. You can dismiss The Man as crazy, but Melanie’s actions are harder to fathom. But the first clue comes when the Man tells Melanie a fairy tale of her life. This is not realism but a fable. A maiden is taken away by a stranger across the sea and there will be adventure and love beyond what is rational. It is only once you accept this that you can go along with the many twists and turns the story takes and you will appreciate the sly, dark humour.

Rachael Blake carries the film well; her distinctive voice used to great effect, and she is a good match for the formidable talents of Sam Neill, who brings humanity to an otherwise blank character. Joel Tobeck plays the third piece in the jigsaw, Bill, with down to earth charm. The location, on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is stunning, and changes wonderfully with the changing moods of the film.

There are some cliched images, a little too much mood lightening; but on the whole Perfect Strangers is refreshing for its total disregard for Hollywood conventions and its affection for strange and wonderful characters. It’s not quite a thriller and not quite a love story. The inability of the film to be exactly defined is what makes it worth seeing.