Over the past decade, French filmmaker Patrice Leconte has been the model of consistency. In that time he's made a series of films among them 1996's "Ridicule," 1999's "Girl on the Bridge" and 2000's "The Widow of St. Pierre that were all terrific, all very different and all very original.
So now, when his latest venture is "merely" good, it's a disappointment.
"Intimate Strangers" is the least of the movies he's made in the past 10 years.
However, by ordinary filmmaking standards it's a solid, entertaining little feature that defies efforts to pigeonhole it in a particular genre. Like all of Leconte's films, it has both dramatic and comedic moments, and some story elements suggest it could be either a mystery or an erotic thriller. But again, no single category seems to fit as a description.
The film's title refers to the relationship that develops between the two main characters, William (Fabrice Luchini) and Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire). He's a financial adviser who lives in the same three-room apartment he uses as his office.
She's an unhappily married woman who needs to confide in someone. She believes William is a psychiatrist (she's stumbled into the wrong office) and begins spilling all her secrets to him.
At first, William's not sure what to think. He's embarrassed and doesn't know quite how to tell her the truth. So he allows her to continue. And then he even schedules another "appointment" . . .
To give away anymore would be unfair. Suffice it to say, it's an unusual premise, and the whole thing takes unexpected twists and turns. (Given how original it is, you can almost see Hollywood waiting to appropriate this material for an English-language remake and then screwing it up.)
It requires you to accept a lot, though. A few things seem implausible or a bit contrived.
Still, the performances by the leads go a long way to make this believable. And there's no denying their chemistry.
In support, Anne Brochet is terrific as William's ex-girlfriend, who continues to meddle in his life.
"Intimate Strangers" is rated R for frank sexual discussions, occasional use of strong sexual profanity and crude sexual slang terms, and a brief sex scene (seen from a distance). Running time: 104 minutes.