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FilmWatch Weekly: ‘All of Us Strangers,’ ‘Mean Girls,’ and much more

Also this week: Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan in "Foe," three Heisei-era Gamera films at Cinemagic, and Lakeith Stanfield in "The Book of Clarence."


Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott in All of Us Strangers

The British filmmaker Andrew Haigh first gained notice with 2011’s Weekend, which charted the brief but complicated relationship between two men after they hook up on a Friday night. Haigh’s new film, All of Us Strangers, starts off in a similar vein, but expands into an almost metaphysical exploration of memory and an achingly bittersweet romance.

Adam (Andrew Scott) and Harry (Paul Mescal) are apparently the only two residents of a new apartment tower in London. Following a (false) fire alarm, they meet, and Harry shows up at Adam’s door with a half-drunk bottle of whiskey and a flirty mien. Adam declines the invitation, and the next day takes the train to the suburbs to visit his parents, who have been dead for some thirty years.

Not their graves, mind you: he shows up at his childhood home, where his Mum (Claire Foy) and Dad (Jamie Bell), looking as they did in 1987, are overjoyed to see him. They’re eager to hear what he’s up to these days, and he explains he’s a screenwriter. They part, and he promises to visit again.

Harry pops up again, and this time Adam lets things happen. They begin a tentative but passionate relationship, slowly revealing their inner selves, including Adam’s revelation that his parents were killed in a car crash when he was twelve.

Adam returns to visit them again, but finds only Mum, with whom he has one of the most surreal coming-out conversations imaginable. Scott is fantastic in the whole film, but his scene would be the one played during the ceremony if he were to be Oscar-nominated. He’s explaining to his mother, who’s concerned about AIDS and how lonely it must be as a gay man, that things are different now and gay people don’t have to be lonely. But the emotions that play over his face signal his uncertainty about that idea.

Are Mum and Dad ghosts or memories, and is there a difference? How do we process the loss of people who never got to know us as we are? Why is it so difficult to forge genuine connections with others? All of Us Strangers sifts through these ideas like a fist grabbing sand, knowing that there are no real answers to hang on to.

The movie’s basically a four-hander, and without the fully realized work of Mescal and Scott the whole thing would sink. The former follows up his acclaimed role in Aftersun (another film steeped in memory and loss) with another perfectly pitched portrait of wry melancholy. Scott, who emanated sexy smartness as Professor Moriarty in Sherlock and as the hot priest in Fleabag, pairs that quality with a vulnerability and introspection we haven’t seen before.


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Haigh, who also directed the unjustly neglected adaptation of Portland novelist Willy Vlautin’s Lean on Pete, expands his palette both visually (Jamie Ramsey’s cinematography is lush and haunting) and emotionally in his best film to date. There’s a twist in the final act of All of Us Strangers that drives home its themes, but it’s almost unnecessary given the journey it takes us on before then. But it’ll make you want to watch it again as soon as possible. (Opens Thursday, Jan. 11, at Cinema 21, Friday, Jan. 12 at Regal Bridgeport Village, and Friday, Jan. 19 at Living Room Theaters)


Foe: It’s a big week for Paul Mescal fans, as he also stars in another relationship drama with genre elements. Here he’s opposite Saoirse Ronan as they play a married couple living on an isolated farm in a vaguely post-apocalyptic future. A mysterious dude (Aaron Pierce) shows up one day to tell them that he’s been selected (i.e., drafted) to go work on a space station for an extended stint. Not to worry, though, an identical, robotic duplicate of him will remain behind so as not to disrupt her life. First, though, our enigmatic stranger needs to live with the pair for a while, in order to understand their marriage and create the perfect replica. It’s a bit of a clunky metaphor, but solid performances, especially from Ronan, make director Garth Davis’ first film in five years a compelling examination of loneliness of the long-term relationship. (Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.)

Mean Girls: It seems safe to assume that when author Rosalind Wiseman published her parenting guide, “Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence,” in 2002, she did not expect to inspire: (a) a hit 2004 film written by Tina Fey, (b) a hit 2017 stage musical that was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, and (c) a new film adaptation of that stage musical. In any case, I hope she got a good royalty deal.

Twenty years on, the original movie has developed a cult following, and those fans should be pleased with the faithful replication of its memeable moments: October 3, “fetch,” hair full of secrets, etc. Fey and Tim Meadows reprise their roles as teachers at North Shore High School, with the addition of Jon Hamm as the health and sex-ed instructor. (He’s limited to one brief scene, which makes me think there’s a good 30 minutes of hilariously inept hygiene advice from him on the cutting room floor.)

The plot is virtually unchanged, as well—why mess with success?—but the young performers stepping in for Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried and others are appealing and funny, even if none of them look a day under 20. Fresh-faced Angourie Rice is Cady Heron, the home-schooled, fresh-from-Kenya naïf who gets a crash course in American teen hierarchy. Reneé Rapp (The Sex Lives of College Girls) makes a suitably intimidating, perfectly coiffed queen bitch as Regina George, the leader of the popular clique who lures Cady into her clutches. The supporting roles, including the outcast art kids who narrate the tale, have been cast more diversely, and some of the body- and race-based humor has been toned down. (These girls aren’t quite as mean as their forebears.)

It’s a musical, too, although one in which the songs don’t really add much to the plot and are shot in a heavily montaged, music-video style that grates after a while. Fey’s screenplay, embodying her clever-aside-heavy style, is still the sturdy comic backbone that keeps the whole thing from crumbling. High-energy, empowering entertainment isn’t the worst reason to get out of the house during the January doldrums, and for that reason, these Mean Girls are above average. (Opens Thursday, Jan. 11, everywhere.)

Ruth E. Carter: The Oscar-winning costume designer comes to PAM CUT’s Tomorrow Theater on Friday, Jan. 12, as part of its “Carte Blanche” program. Carter will be interviewed by PAM CUT Director Amy Dotson in conjunction with the Portland Art Museum’s Africa Fashion exhibit. The weekend continues with screenings of Black Panther (for which Carter won her first Oscar) on Saturday and the Portland premiere of 2023 Sundance film Bravo, Burkina!, which was directed by Walé Oyéjidé, who worked with Carter on Black Panther, on Sunday. (UPDATE: Ruth E. Carter’s appearance has been postponed and rescheduled for March 8, and the Jan. 13 screening of “Black Panther” has been canceled.)


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Gamera: The Heisei Trilogy: The flying space turtle Gamera, beloved by fans of kaiju films, got a reboot in the 1990s during the reign of Emperor Akihito (known as the Heisei era). 1995’s Gamera, Guardian of the Universe; 1996’s Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion; and 1999’s Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris brought a darker feel than the cartoonish antics of the 1960s Gamera films. With Godzilla getting his share of airtime these days, it feels fitting to give this fella his due over a weekend of screenings. Friday and Sunday evening’s showings will include a Q&A with series star Ayako Fujitani. (Friday, Jan. 12 through Sunday, Jan. 14, Cinemagic.)

The Beekeeper: Jason Statham wages a bloody, bullet-filled one-man war against a cartel of Internet scam artists headed by Jeremy Irons. (Opens Thursday, Jan. 11, everywhere)

The Book of Clarence: Lakeith Stanfield stars in an offbeat Biblical story about a Judean dude who tries to copy Jesus’ shtick in order to make a name for himself. (Opens Thursday, Jan. 11, everywhere.)

The Canote Twins: This documentary profiles the joyous identical twins Greg and Jere Canote, who have been playing old-timey music together for decades. (Saturday, Clinton)

Concrete Utopia: In this Korean disaster flick, only one apartment complex in Seoul survives after a massive earthquake, providing shelter for its inhabitants while also attracting the attention of those who were not so fortunate. (Opens Friday, Jan. 12, at the Living Room Theaters)

Enter the Clones of Bruce: After Bruce Lee’s untimely death, movie producers sought out lookalikes to capitalize on his fame. This entertaining documentary examines the phenomenon and the often bizarre films that resulted. (Tuesday, Jan. 16, Hollywood)

I Did It My Way: Hong Kong action mainstays Andy Lau and Simon Yam star in this thriller about cops trying to bust up an online drug trafficking ring. (Opens Friday, Jan. 12, at Century Eastport.)


Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon

Memory: Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard star in this love story about a man with early-onset dementia and the woman who is hired to care for him. (Opens Thursday, Jan. 11, at Regal Fox Tower)



  • Old Joy [2006] (Clinton)
  • The Persian Version [2023] (Tomorrow Theater)


  • The Killing [1956] (Eugene Art House, through Thursday)
  • Mars Attacks! [1996] (Academy, through Thursday)
  • Mary Poppins [1964] (Kiggins)

  • Rock’n’Roll High School [1979] (Clinton)
  • Ten Things I Hate About You [1999] (Hollywood)
  • Total Recall [1990] (Academy, through Thursday)


  • Cemetery Man [1994] (Hollywood, also Sunday)
  • Dog Day Afternoon [1975] (Cinema 21)
  • Ghost World [2001] (Clinton)
  • Jurassic Park [1996] (Hollywood, also Sunday)
  • Violent City [1970] and Cold Sweat [1970] (Darkside Cinema)


  • Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz [1998] (Hollywood)
  • Style Wars [1983] (Clinton)
  • The Valdez Horses [1973] and Cabo Blanco [1980] (Darkside Cinema)



  • Blazing Saddles [1973] (Cinemagic, also Tuesday)
  • King: A Filmed Record from Montgomery to Memphis [1969] (Clinton)
  • McCabe and Mrs. Miller [1971] (Hollywood, on 35mm)
  • Young Frankenstein [1974] (Cinemagic, also Wednesday)


  • Creature from the Haunted Sea [1961] (Darkside Cinema)
  • Donkey Skin [1970] (Clinton)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind [2022] (Hollywood)
  • Spaceballs [1986] (Cinemagic, also Wednesday)


  • Bye Bye Love [1974] (Church of Film at the Clinton)

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Marc Mohan moved to Portland from Wisconsin in 1991, and has been exploring and contributing to the city’s film culture almost ever since, as the manager of the landmark independent video store Trilogy, the owner of Portland’s first DVD-only rental spot, Video Vérité; and as a freelance film critic for The Oregonian for nearly twenty years. Once it became apparent that “newspaper film critic” was no longer a sustainable career option, he pursued a new path, enrolling in the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in the fall of 2017 and graduating cum laude in 2020 with a specialization in Intellectual Property. He now splits his time between his practice with Vérité Law Company and his continuing efforts to spread the word about great (and not-so-great) movies, which include a weekly column at Oregon ArtsWatch.

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