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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Audio commentary
  • Featurette - Making of
  • Photo gallery

Perfect Strangers (2001)

BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 239 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

After recently enjoying this directorís other television work in Shooting the Past, I was very much looking forward to viewing this second effort, or follow up, if you will. Iím happy to say it exceeded expectations and my partner and I both got hooked fairly early and couldnít wait to see how it ended up.

Itís a simple premise and one Iím surprised no-one else has really touched on in cinema/television. A young man, Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) discovers a network of family he never knew existed because of his fatherís self-imposed separation from them. Our story basically covers Daniel making new friends among the family and unlocking a few family secrets along the way. Itís simple and relies heavily on the script as the main thrust of the story and as a whole it isnít let down by it. Daniel is played perfectly as the wide-eyed innocent, yet with the intellect behind it to not take any family bullshit along the way. The odd collection of family bring many sub-stories to the production which helps fill out the length of this mini-series and relieves the pressure on the main plotline, making it all the more intriguing.

Geneaology is a fascinating thing. I myself have only in the last couple of years fully learned of my ancestry. Apparently we had a French free settler (no crooks among usÖ apart from being French) with the name Fabare who came across on the Second Fleet. And second comes right after first...

Anyway, enough about me. Letís talk about the show. We are given the entire run of three episodes here over two discs with some interesting if unimaginative extras. Again the episodes are eclectically weighted to fit in among the BBCís odd programming slots, so some are longer and some shorter. Sometimes it appears that scenes have been cropped to fit into this timeslot, which leaves us with some awkward moments of confusion regarding the passage of time.

However, the episodes run thus...

  • Episode One Run time: 1:31:19
    Danielís family gathering begins in earnest, regardless of his fatherís wishes to avoid it. Daniel soon meets all manner of relations and begins to learn some fairly controversial family secrets. All the while, his cousin Rebecca and he are forming a closer and closer bond.
  • Episode Two Run time: 1:00:47
    After Danielís fatherís collapse, he repairs to his cousinís flat in London to recover, while Daniel learns more about Rebecca and her brotherís relationship. Other tales of the family come to light in remarkable fashion as Daniel becomes absorbed with his formerly unknown family.
  • Episode Three (final) Run time: 1:26:37
    After acting as go-between for Alice and Rebecca, Daniel learns their secret and sets about to try and rectify the situation. Meanwhile, his cousinís exclusive engagement party sets the scene for Daniel to finally confront the two women and force them to act, as well as an opportunity for Danielís father to escape the flat and have some fun.

Itís a very watchable production, although some of the final explanations may leave you a little winded and asking, ĎIs that it?í However, itís been well shot, well researched and well told. Again writer/director Stephen Poliakoff has utilised the resources of the Hulton Getty Picture Library to help bring authenticity to the final story and this works quite well, although most shots seem to have been created for the purposes of the show. It doesnít matter though, it works for this quality and likeable telling of one familyís darker past and brighter tomorrow.

  Video
Contract

The major letdown here is in grain. That and compression. Most internal shots (the majority of the show is internal) suffer some gradation of grain, whether it be slight or severe or any point between. Compression artefacts are sporadically recurrent throughout, but arenít all that bad, just apparent. Colours are slightly faded as well at times. This is more noticeable on the first disc where two episodes have been squeezed onto one DVD 9, with the final episode and extras on the second disc; a DVD 5. Shadow detail is just below average, meaning some detail but not a lot. Blacks are a deeper grainy grey, though again not so much as on the first discís episodes. We get to see all of this through the magic of the 1.78:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 anamorphic enhancement.

  Audio
Contract

Being made for television, we naturally get a Dolby Digital stereo mix included. This is adequate though, as there arenít cars blowing up or raking machine gun fire to be immersed in. Dialogue is all clear and spoken oh so eloquently in British accents throughout.

Sound effects are minimal and therefore fine. Music is very nice, being understated, melodic and fitting at all times. Adrian Johnston has composed the score and it does what it is supposed to do, which is supporting the storyline without domination.

  Extras
Contract

Only three here and nothing earth shattering. The directorís commentary is worth a listen, although it strongly resembles the commentary style of his first in Shooting the Past, even being joined by producer John Chapman and composer Adrian Johnston. Some interesting facts and such come to light, but overall it is average at best. This appears on Disc One and is the only extra here.

Disc Two has Episode Three and a featurette running for 17:35. This is the usual making of stuff with soundbite interviews and introspection on the characters and situations. Delivered in 1.78:1 with 16:9, I assume it was made as an advance sell piece rather than for DVD.

Finally, a practically worthless photo montage in the same vein as the one on Shooting. All the black and white photographs from inside the series have been strung together into a short film with musical backing for one minute 56.

So, like I said, not a hugely inspired batch here.

  Overall  
Contract

If you were a fan of the show when it aired on television, no doubt youíll love this incarnation. Itís a very watchable piece with likeable characters and situations and some incredible smaller stories within. Acting is fine, although not many folks are too taxed with their roles. Timothy Spall from the recent Australian vehicle Gettiní Square appears here, as he did in Shooting, and while he is more downplayed here than in either of those roles, he does an excellent job as comic relief.

Itís well worth a look for anyone interested in a different sort of drama that includes the odd laugh, the odd tear and just a good old-fashioned story.


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      And I quote...
    "A non-connected follow-up to Shooting the Past that takes an ordinary family tree and makes it extraordinary. More quality BBC television."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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