“Without ever knowing us”: the artist, his lover and his ghosts


In the middle of a city that stretches as far as the eye can see, at the top of a tower, a man lives alone. Does he only live. Adam (Andrew Scott) drags himself from his bed to his couch, from his couch to his work table, hoping to write the first sentence of a screenplay. Andrew Scott, usually such a sharp actor, became a little blurry; we see a man unraveling in isolation, facing the fear of failing – the human condition in its most extreme banality, London version.

Belying this apparent promise of boredom and depression, these first shots are the threshold that leads to another world. Without Ever Knowing Us (in the original All of Us Strangers – “all of us, the strangers”) pushes rumination on the difficulty of creating far into the background to venture into a zone where the border between memory and the present, the dead and the living, is an abolished moment, where Adam touches on truth and love. Rarely have the joy and pain of memory and desire been presented with such strength and gentleness.

Miracle of a scenario

It takes a fire alarm to get Adam out of his house. On the sidewalk, he is almost alone and in an apartment a few floors below his he can see the silhouette of a man staring at him. Once the alert is over, the author, out of ideas, receives a visit from this tipsy neighbor, Harry (Paul Mescal), who offers to spend the night in his company. Adam may have pushed him away, but this intrusion blew up a dam.

The next day, he leaves for the suburbs where he grew up. In the family home, he sees through the window his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) as they were when he was 12 years old. What happens between this forty-year-old and this couple of young adults is a miracle. Miracle of a scenario – adapted by the director of the novel Présences d’un été (Philippe Picquier, 2006), by the Japanese author Taichi Yamada – which offers no explanation for this folding of time, a miracle above all of the setting stage and interpretation.

Adam seizes the opportunity to have, first with his mother, then with his father, the conversations that they kept silent when they would have been necessary. With infinite subtlety (which has nothing to do, for example, with the poetic clowning of Tom Hanks in Big when he played a child in an adult’s body), Andrew Scott and his young parents recreate the bonds that united their characters thirty years earlier. Jamie Bell (who was once Billy Elliot ) and Claire Foy (formerly Elizabeth II in the first seasons of The Crown ) find the attitudes and expressions of parents from the 1980s, those that their gay son went through between homophobia and the beginning of the AIDS pandemic.

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