On the outside, it’s a perfect dinner of close friends. They relax and enjoy their evening. But underneath the surface, there are lies, deception, betrayal, and broken relationships. And everything is revealed through the device that knows us the best.
Directed by Paolo Genovese, Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers) is an Italian comedy-drama that follows seven long-term friends, including three married couples and one divorcee. On the surface, all the friends lead an ideal life: one couple is trying to have a baby, the divorcee has a new girlfriend, and the remaining couples seem content with their careers and family lives.
As the group sits down to eat, they talk about how technology has made our private lives too secretive, almost to the point where our phones contain our entire personal history. One friend suggests the group play a game. All the friends will put their phones on the table. Whatever message comes in while the friends eat will be read aloud.
At first, the game is comical while trivial texts emerge. But then the messages take a dark turn. Slowly, secrets are unveiled that begin to drive the friends against each other. As each secret is revealed, the friends find out that they know nothing about one another.
Each secret throws a wrench in the group’s relationship and brings the brokenness of each person to the surface: an unhappy marriage, a mother who has out-welcomed her stay, and homophobia are just a few of the problems. This movie highlights the power that we give technology, including personal information that we may not share with others. Search engines are catered to everyone’s wants and needs, while the people we love most might never satisfy us. With ubiquitous technology, we can seek pleasure anywhere and so easily—seen in the film when one wife uses Facebook to sext a man she has never met, or when her husband receives a lewd picture from his co-worker. Everyone is in the same room, but through their phones they experience completely different lives.
Perfetti Sconosciuti uses a film technique called film balade, or “the wandering film.” This means the film has no resolution at the end, leaving the audience with more questions than answers.
Perfetti Sconosciuti is a thought-provoking film on modern technology and privacy. Genovese makes the audience question: Do we ever really know the people we are closest to? Or will their phones always know more?