A Perfect Enemy review – devious Euro-thriller with the manic pixie dream girl from hell

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” That’s the Saint-Exupéry zinger with which star architect Jeremiasz (Cold War’s Tomasz Kot) closes a Paris lecture, after describing his conversion to designing buildings with a social purpose. But the unsound psychological foundations, and the cost, of perfectionism are the theme of this well-written, devious Euro-thriller.

Grabbing a taxi to catch a flight back to Poland, Jeremiasz lets improbably named twentysomething Texel Textor (Athena Strates) hop along for the ride. She’s so intent on chatting that she leaves her luggage on the street, and both of them end up missing their flights. Jeremiasz settles in for a two-hour wait in the Charles de Gaulle airport extension that, in this reality, he designed, but inevitably bumps into Texel again. He tries to give her the cold shoulder, ma, after she makes an alarming admission and insists she tells him her story, he consents to being her captive audience.

Both Strates and Catalan director Kike Maíllo – eager to make this dysfunctional fabulism fly – overplay a bit in the opening stages. But the film soon settles into an engrossing power game, as Jeremiasz tries to work out what this manic pixie dream girl from hell wants from him. Recounting how she once apparently successfully wished death on a classmate in the Netherlands, she admits to being possessed by a destructive spirit: “the perfect enemy”. Forming a perfect cornice with Jeremiasz’s preoccupations, it’s not the only hint that their pasts are directly linked.

Strates, who physically resembles Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman, makes Texel into an almost endearing antagonist: rascally, obsessive and haunted. Maíllo, making his English-language debut, effortlessly sustains the tension and sprinkles in some dinky visual touches, like the architectural model of the airport in which miniatures of Jeremiasz and Texel, and ominous blood splatter, appear. Thriller perfection is not too far away.

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