Based on The Enemy Cosmetique, a novel by Amélie Nothomb, the film tells the story of an architect, Jeremiasz Angust (Tomasz Kot), who is heading back home to Warsaw from Paris after speaking at a conference. On the way to the airport, his car is stopped by a young woman (Athena Strates) in need of a lift to catch her flight. She asks for a ride and he reluctantly agrees. What starts out as an innocent request, takes a darker stranger turn, especially when the woman won’t leave Jeremiasz alone.
It’s a set-up that should have enough intrigue within in it to work and result in a functional thriller at the bare minimum, but it becomes clear that the film is too eager to push that sense of mystery it refuses to allow it time to breathe. Subsequently it doesn’t take long before the dialogue grates and the frenetic, whirlwind ride that director Kiké Maíllo is so keen to provide inspires eye rolls rather than mounting tension.
There is a superficiality inherent in the interactions between its two leads that comes from the script. Tomasz Kot’s performance is solid as Jeremiasz, and the same can be said of Athena Strates as the mysterious woman, but their interactions become tiresome early on in the film with irritation being the main feeling inspired. There is the sense that the film’s central idea isn’t a bad one, and two-handers like this often use the claustrophobic feeling of being attached at the hip to the characters to their advantage. However, the irritation overrides any sense of threat generated as the two continue to have meandering discussions that rarely provide enough reason to truly care about what they are saying.
The score, by Alex Baranowski, is doing a lot of work here, and it is responsible for the vast majority of any atmosphere the film manages to create. There’s an eerie beauty to it, but Baranowski is also keenly aware that the music plays a key role in accentuating the mystery, and so it brings an uneasiness with it too. It’s a shame that it never really gets any support from any other aspects of the film, which largely pale in comparison.
The main problem, in the end, is that it never manages to feel anything more than artificial, which is strange for a film so concerned about digging beneath the surface of its characters. Flashback sequences attempt to engender some sort of sense of unease, but there is a predictability to them that matches the artificiality of the rest of the film and only exacerbates that sense of annoyance. What makes it so frustrating is that the viewer can see the building blocks of the film, but they aren’t assembled properly, leaving a hodgepodge of potentially good ideas to be poorly delivered and predictably executed. Ultimately, there are many films that deal with the central themes explored here in much more satisfying and thoughtful ways, leaving A Perfect Enemy to flounder in its own wasted potential.
A Perfect Enemy is set for release in the UK on July 5th.