A man wakes in mid-afternoon in a grungy London flat. A woman knocks at the door. He lets her in, to an awkward silence. She touches his face tenderly–almost immediately they have stripped and are making love on a mattress on the floor. It is the first of many intense, real-time, sexually-explicit, encounters between Jay (Mark Rylance) and Claire (Kerry Fox). And director Patrice Chereau reinforces the intensity by keeping his widescreen camera very close to the actors.
Jay and Claire agree to separate their meetings from the rest of their lives. But after one encounter, Jay follows Claire. He discovers that she acts in a basement theater, and is married to a taxi driver, Andy (Timothy Spall). Following her again, Jay loses her. And, in a reversal of roles–like that in Christopher Nolan’s FOLLOWING–when she re-emerges from a shop, she follows him. She is amused at first, but is disturbed when he goes to the basement theater.
Using Hanif Kureshi’s stories as a basis, Chereau shifts the emphasis from Jay and his pain at separating from his wife. Instead, INTIMACY reveals a woman trying to start feeling again, who is caught between a needy lover and an anguished, insecure husband. Fox gives a fine performance (that won Best Actress at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival) that is the backbone of this powerful drama.