Intimate Strangers (London Korean Film Festival 2020) – Movie Review

Fantastically Cringe-Worthy

People live three lives. A public life, private life and a secret life. Even the most ordinary of us have secrets. Of course you do. Whether it’s life’s little annoyances or that infuriating thing your partner does or something on a slightly different level, there’s a lot we keep to ourselves. Is that the right thing? Let’s explore.

In Intimate Strangers, a group gathers for a housewarming dinner. To prove their level of friendship, someone suggests a fabulous game – let’s share every call, text, email and photo that arrives over the course of the evening. Three of the men are there with their wives – one on his own. Worst. Game. Ever.

You can imagine how the ship will go down. This 2018 film was based on the 2016 Italian original, Perfect Strangers has been recreated in 18 countries; the Korean version was directed by Lee Jae-Kyoo and adapted by Bae Se-Young.

There’s a reason it’s been so prolifically replicated. The concept is simple – and so obviously fraught with Titanic-level disaster.

The ensemble is led by the wonderful Cho Jin-Woong who also starred in 2020 London Korean Film Festival picks Jesters: The Game Changers and Me & Me. Cho plays Seok-Ho, husband to Ye-Jin (Kim Ji-Soo) and host of the party. Guests include Tae-Soo (Yoo Hae-Jin) and his wife Soo-Hyun (Yum Jung-Ah), Joon-Mo (Lee Seo-Jin) and his wife Se-Kyung (Song Ha-Yoon) and Young-Bae (Yoon Kyoung-Ho).

The guys have been chums and adversaries since grade school and know everything about each other… or so they think.

Once the idea is on the table, it’s a little difficult to back-track. What are you hiding, dear? So, they bungee-jump headlong into the evening.

Two-thirds of the way through, the characters decide it’s a bad idea too but it’s way too late by then. Young-Bae quips, ‘This game of truth is fun. It’s thrilling, like catching a serial killer.’ I doubt you’d want to find one among your mates.

With cuts between extremely close & wide whole-room camera angles, you can smell the perspiration. As metaphorically bloody as any slasher film, it’s clear that no one is making it out alive.

Incessant tension, lightning-fast pace and super-sharp veteran acting keep things spiraling. Even though you know where this is going, there are enough unpredictable revelations to keep you riveted.

And if the game itself isn’t enough, the evening is intertwined with a lunar eclipse scheduled to become a Blood Moon – and the sensation that anything can happen. And it does. There’s a powerful ending – keep your eye on the spinning ring.

Food for thought: If you had the truth in your hands, would you want to go back? There’s a lesson here about both the freedom and devastation of the truth. And an opportunity to consider the best possible outcome, as, after all, these are your people.

Watch this one with friends – intimate friends. There’s certainly potential for a drinking game here. And whatever you do, learn the lesson. Do not take out your phone. Better yet, leave it at home.

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  • Verdict - 9/10

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