Rotterdam Review: Friends and Strangers is a Debut of Delightful, Confounding Charm

Rotterdam Review: Friends and Strangers is a Debut of Delightful, Confounding Charm
Nothing happens in James Vaughn’s Friends and Strangers in the same way that nothing happens in the films of Hong Sangsoo. The people navigating this entrancing debut feature (a lively pantheon of Australian twenty-somethings plus the occasional grownup proper) meet and talk; couples come together and drift apart; plans are shared and swiftly abandoned. But even a non-event can have its own sense of happening, and even a maze of chance encounters can reveal its own intelligent design. Populated by young adults fumbling after a coherent identity, Friends and Strangers behaves like them. It is a film of detours, digressions, and everyday surrealism––one that draws its unsettling allure from the angst that comes when you realize the path you’ve walked along isn’t paved anymore, and the future you’re venturing into will be entirely your own making.

At the center of it is Ray (Fergus Wilson). A videographer in his twenties,
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