'The Perfect Stranger' Deserves to be Known

Colm Meaney’s portrayal speaks volumes even though he doesn’t speak the language.

Toni Bestard and Colm Meaney celebrate a successful screening of "The Perfect Stranger" during a Palm Springs International Film Festival reception.

Janice Kleinschmidt

When Mark O’Reilly turns on the faucet, the light fixture buzzes and the bulb goes out. When he shuts off the faucet, the bulb comes back on. With wonderment, he tries this water-and-light show a few more times.

Reaction to this early scene in El perfecto desconocido (The Perfect Stranger) is Spanish director Toni Bestard’s clue to the success or failure of the rest of the movie, he said at a reception following the Jan. 14 Palm Springs International Film Festival screening. Fortunately, the audience at the Annenberg Theater laughed, which he considered a good sign. “You are the first American audience, and I am sure you will be the best one,” he said from the theater stage.

Reactions, in fact, are at the core of Bestard’s film. Colm Meaney stars as Mark O’Reilly, who comes to a small Mallorcan village in search of a resolution to a life-altering event in his past. Because O’Reilly does not speak Spanish, Meaney’s facial expressions are key — and therein lies much of the charm in this comedy-drama.

Meaney (who, like the character he plays, does not speak Spanish) was provided with an English translation of each draft of the script. But he did not review the final script before each scene to understand exactly what the characters were saying. “I found it was better not to know,” he said during a post-screening Q&A.

The actor, perhaps best known as Chief Miles O’Brien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: The Next Generation, was Bestard’s first choice for the lead, so it seems amazing that he discovered Meaney had purchased a house in Mallorca and was living 10 miles up the road from him.

What also seems amazing is that The Perfect Stranger is Bestard’s first feature film (his short films have been nominated for Goya Awards (the Spanish equivalent to the Academy Awards) and that the two actors who play troubled teens that bond with O’Reilly — Natalia Rodriguez and Guiem Juaneda — are new to film (though Rodriguez has acted on television).

There is much to appreciate about The Perfect Stranger. Primarily a comedy, it also encompasses mystery in its back story and drama (particularly in the last portion of the movie). Most of all, it is about humanity and the connections people make. Thanks to Bestard’s skillful directing, a wonderful balance of humor and pathos, spot-on characterizations by each of the film’s actors, and an ultimate message of hope, The Perfect Stranger could be considered a perfect picture.

Scheduled to premiere in Spain on March 23 (Bestard was still seeking distribution for a U.S. release during the Palm Springs International Film Festival), The Perfect Stranger was voted by audiences among the Best of the Fest, earning the film a third festival screening.

Add your comment:
Desert Guide

Related Articles

10 Things To Do in Palm Springs This Weekend

Palm Springs Life helps plan out your weekend in Palm Springs and the desert resort cities with concerts, events, restaurants, nightlife, clubs and the world of entertainment only found in the desert.

Wesley Eure Will Co-Emcee at Desert AIDS Project Benefit

Chelsea Lane Bodywear presents Under & Out 3, a fashion show and poolside party on Oct. 5 as part of a benefit for the Desert AIDS Project.

"Top Rock" Commands Stage at Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

"Top Rock" brings a brash, rockin' musical tribute to the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs on Friday and Saturday nights through September.

Palm Springs Horoscope - August 2014

Just persevere through these tough times, and know that the hard way will become the right road in 2015.

Palm Springs Horoscope - July 2014

Entering Leo on July 16, Jupiter ramps up the social calendar. There will be more summer parties than last year — expect an overbooked schedule.

Promotions + Contests

90 Days of Summer Romantic Palm Springs Getaway 2014

90 Days of Summer Romantic Palm Springs Getaway 2014

Experience the beauty, romance and excitement of the Palm Springs area when you enter to be the lucky winner of this romantic couple’s getaway
90 DAYS OF SUMMER Instagram Contest 2014

90 DAYS OF SUMMER Instagram Contest 2014

Win a fabulous Palm Springs weekend!

Win a fabulous Palm Springs weekend!

Each month, a first place winner will be selected to win a fabulous Palm Springs weekend!And, each month, three additional runners up will be selected to win a wonderful Palm Springs area Dining certificate!
2013/14 Best of the Best

2013/14 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter just once for a chance to win tickets to one of the second annual Palm Desert International Dance Festival performances.