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:: Perfect Strangers (Perfetti Sconosciuti)

Perfect Strangers received eight nominations for the David di Donatello Awards 2016 and was awarded Best Film and Best Screenplay. In competition at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in 2016 it received an award for Best Screenplay “A good funny script with a deep character development” was the comment of the jury.

You don't ever know enough of the people who are close to you. Perfect Strangers has a public life, a private life and a secret life. The latter will come out in the course of a dinner where you gather a bunch of old friends during a lunar eclipse.

The hosts are Rocco (Mark Giallini) and Eve (Kasia Smutniak). Rocco is a plastic surgeon and Eve is an analyst who is in a personal crisis between her teenage daughter and a husband with little attention. Then come the guests with Bianca (Alba Rohrwacher) and Cosimo (Edoardo Leo), just married and seemingly reserved and polite. They came last in this group of friends. Cosimo now a taxi driver but previously had a shop of electronic cigarettes, and has always been ready to engage in self-employment.

Lele (Valerio Mastandrea) and Charlotte (Anna Foglietta) have been married for years. He is an officer of a large private company. Carlotta is a woman to their two children. We shall see a deep secret between the two. Finally there is Peppe (Giuseppe Battiston) a precarious gym teacher looking for a job. He was supposed to show up with his partner but will be only accompanied by two bottles of wine.

Between meals and sharp jokes this seems to be a common dinner banquet to spend a quiet evening, fascinated by a lunar eclipse that they will observe from their terrace. But this will not be enough to revive the rest of the evening with a meal and banter, so Eve decides to start a game, a social experiment, with the theory that everyone in their personal phones leaves traces of their secret life, unknown to those around them, Wisely acknowledging that all phones disrupt any kind of social engagement, Eve suggests everyone places their smartphone on the table and if they ring or texts/emails come through, it all gets shared with the party. Goaded under the mantra that nobody has anything to hide, the group agrees – albeit reluctantly in some cases. However, unsurprisingly, secrets abound at this table as this social Russian roulette begins – with domestic dark clouds looming….

Genovese’s drama may be an unoriginal concept, but its execution and delicious premise are nothing short of slick and confident. There are thrilling twists with slashes of unique evil jokes worthy of the best varieties of vaudeville, all without upsetting too much the classic system of the new Italian comedy. As the inevitable twists begin to play out and the truth creeps closer to the surface in many relationships, Genovese’s adroitness with the camera and handling of the revelations is masterful and manipulative in equal measure.

Nowadays, everyone lives in his/her smartphone; the film being very timely and very recognisable to many. I wonder how many couples after seeing Perfect Strangers will snoop into each other's smartphone. This premise makes the film stronger and not weaker. It brings the concept closer to the viewer, by implicitly raising the question of how you deal with your smartphone.