Friends and Strangers Image

Friends and Strangers

By Jason Delgado | March 22, 2022

Seinfeld was always said to be “a show about nothing.” Maybe it was on the surface, but it was actually a show about relationships. Besides the hilarious observations on daily life, part of the show’s focus was on how the characters would mistreat their romantic partners. The main focus, though, was on the strong and strange friendship between the four main characters (they could’ve called it Friends). Writer/director James Vaughan’s Friends and Strangers really is a movie about nothing.

Sure, there is some stuff about relationships between friends and strangers, as the title implies, but it’s largely unfocused with no clear plot to follow and is decidedly unfunny. There are multiple long, still shots, focusing only on background scenery. These shots would make for a great postcard, but they don’t add anything to the film itself. The ill-defined narrative, long background shots, and random character encounters could’ve worked if the dialogue had actually been interesting.

One of my favorite trilogies of all time is the Before… series by Richard Linklater. Each of those titles revolves around two characters just walking and talking (much like this movie) amid beautiful scenery, but their conversations are deep and comical meditations on life and love. The most interesting dialogue in Friends and Strangers is about the meaning of the saying, “it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans,” which, much like the saying, amounts to nothing.

“…following Ray around with various friends, family, and strangers…”

I’m all for going out on an artistic limb by ditching the tried and true three-act story structure, but you had better at least make it funny or interesting if you do. The beginning shows some promise, following two strangers who decide to go camping together in picturesque Sydney, Australia. Emma Diaz radiates off the screen with potential as Alice, but she’s hardly in the film after an awkward encounter in a tent with the guy she just met, Ray (Ferguson Wilson).

The majority of Friends and Strangers is then spent following Ray around with various friends, family, and strangers, which amounts to nothing noteworthy. It’s largely made up of uninteresting small talk, interspersed with a couple of discussions about past, failed relationships. While on the camping trip with Ray, Alice befriended a young girl and tried on her deceased mother’s clothes. Scenes like that are the highlight.

A scene near the end feels like a weak attempt at humor, where Ray is to be the videographer for an upcoming wedding. He has an awkward meeting with the bride’s family and then punches through a wall by mistake. It seems like we’re supposed to laugh at Ray for some Larry David type of misfortune, but it isn’t ironic enough to warrant that kind of response.

I’m sure that some people will enjoy the kind of slice-of-life experimental cinema verite that is Friends and Strangers. In the beginning, Alice and Ray talk about how they enjoy watching people go about their days from afar, like ants working. Said conversation presumably will amuse certain audience members. I’m just not one of them.

Friends and Strangers (2022)

Directed and Written: James Vaughan

Starring: Emma Diaz,  Ferguson Wilson, Amelia Conway, David Gannon, etc.

Movie score: 4/10

Friends and Strangers Image

"…Diaz radiates off the screen..."

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