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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Two Lost Hearts Found in Wintry Romantic Comedy "Perfect Strangers"

"PERFECT STRANGERS" (2015)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Length- 26:38
Company:  Magic Monkey Films

It's Christmas Eve in the Scottish Highlands, a perfectly romantic time and place for an engagement, don't you think?  Rob (Kenny Boyle) certainly thinks so, but his girlfriend  (Nicki MacDonald) -- not so much.  She leaves him on the spot.

Meanwhile, Jen (Clare Sheerin) has an awful fight with her boyfriend (Ryan Hendrick) and breaks up with him.

Fast forward a couple minutes and they both wind up at the same lonely train station where the last train's gone and the next won't be around for hours, so of course they get to talking.

And . . . steal a car?

THE WARMTH OF THE SEASON

"Perfect Strangers" is a short film written and directed by Ryan Hendrick.  It's got a good, cinematic style, and gives us some great wide shots of Winter landscapes and homely interiors.  Thanks to smart camera movement and carefully crafted shots, we have a short film that could easily double as a far larger budget picture on a big screen.

One of the most fun things about "Perfect Strangers" is the way it subverts the romantic comedy genre and gives you what you would expect, but not entirely in the way you're thinking it will.  For instance, rather than "boy meets girl, boy pursues girl", it's more the other way around.  Jen is the mover and shaker in this relationship -- she identifies the possibility for something more, and she takes steps to make it happen.  She's active in her participation.  In far too many movies, even these days, women are portrayed as objects that men have to "go out and get".  It's nice to see a film with a strong female lead who is a far more interesting character than her love interest.

And on that note, this is the one thing that bugs me about this film.  Considering the extended running time is almost thirty minutes, I should really know more about these characters than I do.  This takes away somewhat from the emotional impact of the conclusion of the picture.

TRY THIS ON FOR SIZE

The finale is another point in the film where Hendrick and crew defy generic expectations, and I applaud the filmmakers for taking a risk and making a movie that plays out a little differently.  I'm not going to spoil it for you, but I'm sure you're aware of the structure of these sorts of movies.  In the case of "Perfect Strangers", the characters are equals, and neither one is left desperately pining for the other in the rain while somebody sorts their issues out.  Their relationship is, on one level, more mature, and the conclusion reflects that.

So the film itself may be funny, but it's also serious at times and certainly meaningful and even sophisticated in the way that it addresses love and loss and loneliness.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  Overall we have a good script, but the lack of character depth does affect the experience of watching the film.  If I identified with the characters more and knew about them as people, it might have been a whole new ball game.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Really nice job from Hendrick, who delivers a picture whose visuals are every bit as stirring and fun as a Hollywood romantic comedy.
Editing: 3 / 5.  Hendrick handles editing duties here.  The film drags on a bit after a while -- considering that little actually happens over the course of the story, it is AWFULLY long.  
Sound/Music: 3.5 / 5.  Mostly solo piano work, but there are some other tracks performed by Jack Henderson.  The audio's recorded professionally.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Good performances for what they're given, but Boyle and Sheerin are clearly talented.  They could have taken on meatier roles with wider emotional ranges and done it like champs.

Final Grade: 3.4 / 5.

Don't forget to check out the official website for "Perfect Strangers" and follow the creators on Facebook!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!