Director: Patrice Chéreau
Starring: Mark Rylance, Kerry Fox
Duration: 119 min.
Jay is a cold, emotionally distant man who walked out of his family years ago. An anonymous woman comes to his house once a week and they have sex, talking as little as possible and parting ways once they're done. One day he follows her after their weekly encounter and finds out about her life, an act that disrupts their relationship.
Intimacy is a film directed by French filmmaker Patrice Chéreau, based on writings by Hanif Kureishi. It premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and later screened in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival, winning the Golden Bear for Best Film and Silver Bear for Best Actress (Kerry Fox).
Set in contemporary London, the film follows Jay (Mark Rylance) a bar manager at a trendy Soho club. Every Wednesday afternoon a woman (Kerry Fox) shows up at his messy run down flat where they engage in casual sex. It's a strictly primal affair, loveless and without intimacy, they hardly even exchange a hushed greeting at the door before getting down to business, and afterwards the woman who we later find out is named Claire, quickly gets dressed and leaves. Eventually, Jay starts to want more from the relationship and instead of communicating the normal way, he covertly follows her home discovering far too much about her life.
In a way this is a mirror film to Catherine Breillat's Romance. Both explicitly and unflinchingly deal with modern casual sexual relationships but where that one was told by a woman, entirely from a woman's perspective, this is by a man from a man's perspective. Though among many differences that would take too long to discuss here, this one has a far more interesting and developed story to tell, and also a well rounded character of the opposite sex.
It also features two incredible performances by Rylance and Fox, who Chéreau asks and receives far more of emotionally and physically than what is normally revealed on film. They both embody their complex characters with a subtle and natural manner. The rest of the cast including Timothy Spall, Philippe Calvario, and Marianne Faithfull are solid as well, but unfortunately their characters don't really add enough to the film. A few wandering side-plots involving some of these characters could have been cut or reduced to make the screenplay more effective.
Overall, Intimacy is a powerful and provocative exploration into loneliness and desperation that boldly challenges the boundaries of art and pornography with some brave acting from the leads. However the story does have some rough patches that drag it down from being an exceptional film.
— Bonjour Tristesse