The off-center cinema of Andrew Haigh

In June 2015, Bret Easton Ellis devoted an episode of his podcast to English filmmaker Andrew Haigh. “Sometimes when people watch a “gay movie,” they forget that it’s also a movie about something else.” noted the American writer in the introduction. Nine years later, Andrew Haigh is back with a fifth feature film which, as the author of Lunar Park, is a “gay film” which also evokes many other things.

Andrew Scott plays Adam, an author struggling with an autofictional scenario that leads him to rehash the death of his parents in a car accident when he was 12 years old. He meets Harry (Paul Mescal), his only neighbor in the strangely deserted London high-rise where he lives.

Their solitudes are understood and love is born, attracting with it its share of ghosts. Without ever knowing us explores our relationship to death, the past, isolation and intimacy. Because Andrew Haigh uses the supernatural, guiding the viewer into the psyche of Adam, this adult but inconsolable orphan who goes to meet his missing parents, we think of Little Mom (2021), by Céline Sciamma, where the heroine, a little girl, summons the avatar of her own mother at the same age.

“There is undoubtedly a connection with Little mom, concedes Andrew Haigh, although I saw the film when mine was already well advanced… Céline Sciamma and I are roughly the same age, and there comes a time in life when we want to go back and understand the relationship we had with our parents. » The director, through his dreamlike scenario, however, introduces a magnificent additional idea: having suddenly disappeared, Adam’s parents created an orphan but also had to mourn the loss of this boy whom they will not see grow up.

A community of survivors

Andrew Haigh is 50 years old. He lives in London, with his writer husband, Andy Morwood, and their two little daughters, and embraces the game of promotion with singular enthusiasm (“It would make no sense to make a film called Without ever knowing us and not to go and meet people who, precisely, recognize themselves there! »). Especially since this film is a way for him to tell his story. The scenes where Adam goes to find his parents in Croydon, a suburb of London, were filmed in the family home where the filmmaker lived until he was 9 years old.

“My parents are still alive, but finding myself in this place was like being in a house haunted by my memories,” he observes. The memories are those of a queer childhood and adolescence in the 1980s, before coming out late, around age 25. A time when the young gay boy he was grew up with the idea “that everyone would hate you and that you would probably die if you decided to live a homosexual life”.

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