Tag Archives: Paul Mescal

When You’re Alone

All of Us Strangers

by Hope Madden

Loneliness can be self-imposed, but that doesn’t make it any easier to overcome.

Adam (Andrew Scott) is alone. A writer living in a London high rise that’s still under construction, his solitary days bleed into his solitary nights, 80s hits on video and vinyl his main companions.

Adam is trying to write about his parents, so he decides to leave his flat, take a train, and revisit his old neighborhood. And soon his solitary days turn into afternoons spent with his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) and nights spent with his only neighbor, Harry (Paul Mescal).

What follows is a beautiful, melancholy meditation on reconciling your love for someone who has failed you, recognizing their love for you and their failure.

Scott doesn’t anchor the film as much as he haunts it with a turn that’s achingly tender and forgiving. Meanwhile, Mescal delivers another beautifully wounded performance, raw with emotion and sensuality.

Foy is a delightful change of pace, conflicted and unsure, and Bell stands out as the dad you really want him to be: honest, culpable, sorry, deeply loving.

Writer/director Andrew Haigh (45 Years) expertly weaves the lonesomeness of childhood traumas, as misunderstood and overwhelming as they can be, with personal identity. What of your traumas created who you are? What of who you are created your traumas?

Though never illogical, logic itself is far from the driving principle in Haigh’s storytelling. Emotional honesty, perhaps. Desire, certainly.

All of Us Strangers is a tough film to summarize and even tougher to categorize. It exists in a dream state bound by loss and isolation. Naturally, the only way to puncture that atmosphere is with love.

In many ways, this film should not work. Genre elements litter the script that, told by any other filmmaker, would run either maudlin or cheesy. But Haigh’s hypnotic touch creates a tone equally honest and obscure yet full of wonder. It’s also utterly devastating.

Classic Case


by George Wolf

For this latest reimagining of the classic story, director Benjamin Millepied credits inspiration from Prosper Mérimée’s original novella from 1845, and Alexander Pushkin’s poem “The Gypsies” from 1824.

Flashing more modern vibrancy through culturally rich music and dance, this new Carmen arrives as a wonder of visionary composition that struggles to find an equally compelling connection to its characters.

The writing team of Loic Barrere, Alexander Dinelaris and Lisa Loomer crafts a surface-level tale of lovers on the run. Aidan (Paul Mescal) is a troubled Marine veteran volunteering on a night patrol along the Mexican border, while Carmen (Melissa Barrera) is trying to cross after the death of her mother. A violent altercation leads to casualties, and the two are soon trying to stay one step ahead of authorities.

Millepied (choreographer and co-star of Black Swan) knows his way around a dance number, getting an assist from flamenco specialist Marina Tamayo for sequences that sport some thrilling fluidity. The acclaimed talents of cinematographer Jörg Widmer (The Tree of Life, V for Vendetta) and composer Nicholas Britell (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) are also on full display, rounding out a veteran stable of technical skill that consistently lifts the film’s imagery and scope.

Mescal (Aftersun) continues to show a gift for quiet nuance, Barrera (In the Heights, Scream, Scream VI) finally breaks out of her reliance on posing, and the veteran Rossy de Palma (various Almodóvar projects) steals scenes as a savvy nightclub owner, but the script seems content to keep depth at a distance.

Pushkin’s centuries-old themes of noble savages and the tragedy of life are too often given a heavy hand, needing a rescue by the visual poetry on display.

This Carmen tells us “dancing will you heal you.” Indeed, it’s one of the cures for what ails a less than passionate romance.

Altered Images


by Hope Madden

When you were 11, what did you think you would be doing now?

For a lot of parents encountering this query from their own 11-year-old, a joke might ward off any painful introspection. For Aftersun’s Calum (a riveting and tender Paul Mescal), the long silence seems to echo with more than just unreached potential.

Calum and his preteen daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio, remarkable) spend a holiday together in Turkey sometime in the mid-1990s, judging from the tech, which includes Sophie’s digital8 camcorder.

While the blurry, fragmented, buzzing presence of camcorder images is a long-tired filmmaking crutch, writer/director Charlotte Wells gives it deeper purpose. The fractured, off-center but intimate footage mirrors Sophie’s fuzzy memory. The gaps in reality, and the distance between what something looks like and what’s really going express adult Sophie’s (Celia Rowlson-Hall) struggle as she looks back on the fraught relationship between her younger self and her distant father.

The film moves at a languid pace, but Wells repays your patience with a rich and melancholy experience. Like Sophia Coppola with her similar Somewhere, Wells and cinematographer Gregory Oke capture palpable longing, nostalgia and heartbreak.

Neither film structures a tidy narrative, instead trusting viewers to pay attention and piece together fragments to form a whole image. Wells also benefits from two bruised but buoyant central performances that help you see what’s not being told and feel what characters are trying to keep hidden.

Mescal’s charming, innocent, awkward father is as much the memory of a lost daughter as he is a flesh and blood man. His performance aches with authenticity, and Mescal’s chemistry with young Corio only furthers that poignant realism.

Though the loose narrative may frustrate some, as a work of remembrance, Wells’ first feature film delivers something powerful and powerfully impressive.