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Paramount Classics

Official Site

Director: Patrice Leconte

Producer: Alain Sarde

Written by: Jérôme Tonnerre

Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire, Fabrice Luchini, Michel Duchaussoy, Helene Surgere, Anne Brochet, Gilbert Melki


A distraught woman (Anna, played by Bonnaire) walks into an office and begins revealing intimate details of her married life, under the misapprehension that the man facing her is a psychoanalyst. Luchini’s William is, in fact, a tax lawyer, but he not only does nothing to correct her mistaken notion, he allows her to schedule another appointment.

Implausible, you say? Ridiculous, you scoff? You say people don’t behave like that? Anyone we know, faced with such a situation, would have informed Anna of her mistake without letting her share such personal information, yes? Well yeah. I know I wouldn’t find it too hard to shut her down and tell her who I was.

Yes, but. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you didn’t do what you know you should, if you surrendered control of a situation, if you behaved the way only people in movies behave, have I got an A-ticket for you. Intimate Strangers, for all its implausible conceit, is entertaining and I urge you to surrender control and be at the mercy of the storyteller, the way characters in the movie are.

When we do what we think we should, we have an illusion of control over a situation. We have a mental vision of how the situation could resolve itself. The vision may be wrong, for truly, we do not possess anywhere near the amount of control we believe we do, but we at least have a picture of what will happen. When we do not do as we should—when we commit unpredictable, out-of-character acts—we have no picture, not even a faulty one, of what will happen next. Who would need that respite more than a tax lawyer?

The deception is too flimsy to last, of course, yet once she learns of her error, Anna continues to visit William’s office for weekly “sessions.” It’s pretty humorous to watch William become more and more entranced with Anna’s revelations and more and more curt with his actual tax clients. And while these sessions may go where you expect them to, at least they take the road less traveled to get there. Along the way, there are entertaining side characters to watch. Particularly engaging are the real psychoanalyst (Duchaussoy), who becomes William’s mentor, and Mme. Mulon (Surgere), William’s secretary, who makes her blistering opinions perfectly clear by mere glances. Anna’s husband comes off as the only serious character misstep in this movie. Another minus involves rather ham-handed visual clues that Anna is making progress in her “therapy”: On her initial visit, she’s wearing more clothes than a polar explorer, but her layers peel off from scene to scene until, by the end of the movie, she’s in a floaty floral sundress. Gosh.

This movie will stay with you, much the way Leconte’s flawed previous outing, Man On The Train, does. There’s something about his work: The bad parts are vexing at the time of viewing, but what lingers in the mind are only the intriguing, good parts, and a desire to watch again.

—Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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