Spanish/German/French coproduction A Perfect Enemy (2020) is a magnetic thriller that consistently reveals just enough information to keep viewers tantalized and glued to the screen to see what happens next. Bolstered by engaging performances and alluring visuals, director Kike Maillo’s film offers a good share of puzzles and surprises.
Polish architect Jeremiasz Angust (Tomasz Kot) gives a presentation in Paris and rushes to take a car service to the airport to escape the city, where his wife Isabelle (Marta Nieto in a splendid supporting performance) seemingly left him 20 years earlier. On the storm-drenched ride to the airport, a young Dutch woman named Textor Texel (Athena Strates) asks if she can share the ride with him because no taxis are stopping for her. He obliges, the two miss their flights, and they part ways at the airport — or so Jermiasz assumes. Instead, Textor relentlessly tries to strike up conversations with him — even stalker-like, in the men’s toilet — until he reluctantly starts to listen to the three stories she aims to tell him, with, in her words, the first being “disgusting”, the second “scary,” and the third “ending with love.” As the enigmatic and sometimes disturbing Textor weaves her tales, in which she confesses to killing two people, Jeremiasz’s stoic facade begins to wear down, with the display model of the airport terminal that he designed seemingly taking on a life of its own.
The screenplay, co-written by Maillo, Cristina Clemente, and Fernando Navarro — based on the novel Cosmétique de l’ennemi (The Enemy’s Cosmetique) by Amélie Nothomb — is heavy on dialogue, which ranges from mesmerizing to very occasionally stuffy or stilted, but largely stays gripping thanks to the superb performances from Strates and Kot. Strates is terrific portraying Textor as a relentlessly energetic enigma who has a mad side to her, while Kot wears a politely annoyed expression until things heat up when Textor’s stories delve deeper into his character’s personal life, and the actor runs with the chance to stretch further.
Maillo directs with flair and gusto, enriching A Perfect Enemy with the feel of classic European thrillers and an added dash of Hitchcock and De Palma tones. He juggles the multiple story elements keenly and keeps things going at a hand-wringing pace, always making sure that the film avoids mere exposition mode. From rich reds and blues to plenty of icy greys, the film’s color palette and visual design are sumptuous, with cinematographer Rita Noriega capturing the proceedings splendidly.
A Perfect Enemy is a suspenseful puzzle that boasts top-notch production values to go along with its captivating story, fine performances, and masterful direction. Viewers who enjoy unusual approaches to psychological thrillers should find plenty to like here.
Smart Dog Productions will release A Perfect Enemy on Digital Download in the U.K. from 5th July, 2021, on Amazon, Google, and iTunes.