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March 8, 2004 | by  | in Film |
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Perfect Strangers

Never before have the promos for a movie been so misleading. The trailer and blurb for Perfect Strangers is a good description of probably the first 20 minutes of the movie. This is a cunning move that works in its favour, as by billing the movie as a straight kidnap cum psychological thriller, Gaylene Preston is able to brilliantly subvert audience expectations. Perfect Strangers is far from a horror movie, it is a daring and brilliantly intense psychological love story – which will linger in your mind for many days and screams out for repeated viewing.

The movie starts in a fish and chip store, where three ladies giggle and chatter in anticipation of a night on the town in small town New Zealand. They hit the pub, hit the drinks, look for boys. It’s late, Melanie (Rachel Blake) reaches for a lighter only to have her cigarette lit by a tall, dark stranger (Sam Neill). He’s been to Italy. She’s impressed. They return to his boat where Melanie passes out drunk – waking up in the middle of the ocean halfway out to his island getaway. He says he loves her, won’t let her leave – they struggle. She stabs him and from this point on, leave all your expectations aside!

Gaylene Preston directs with a masterful hand, capturing the evolving relationship between Melanie and her perfect stranger brilliantly- Melanie’s descent into madness is portrayed with frightening realism. Sam Neill’s plays his sinister stranger effortlessly – intense and frightening one moment, soft and tender the next. Director Gaylene Preston is the star though- directing the movie through its numerous twists and turns, it seems at times that she is toying with the audience.

Gone it seems, are the days when every second New Zealand movie runs along the lines of the nauseatingly ‘kiwi’ comedy/drama popularised by such ‘classics’ as Via Satellite and Jubilee. Perfect Strangers showcases New Zealand’s beautiful countryside without the publicity of a Whale Rider or Lord of the Rings, and highlighting that with all the success and acclaim of those two films, there is a lot else to be proud of outside of them. Perfect Strangers is a head-spinner of a movie, a twisted romance. Gone are the days when people could say this was ‘pretty good for a New Zealand movie’- Gaylene Preston has created a film that leaves a lot of its Hollywood counterparts for dead.

Director – Gaylene Preston
Paramount, Reading

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About the Author ()

James Robinson is a university dropout turned journalist who likes to pretend he has an honours degree. Turn ons include soup, scarfs, a hot bath and some FM-smooth Kenny G-esque instrumental jazz. Turn offs include student politicians, the homeless, and people who pronounce it supposebly.

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