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I’m worried people think Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal have made a gentle, sexy romcom. Prepare to be devastated

Emer McLysaght: I’m comfortable saying All of Us Strangers is one of best films I’ve seen in years

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal are the perfect pairing for a gay romcom. It’s just a shame they haven’t made one together yet. All of Us Strangers, starring Scott and Mescal, arrives in Irish cinemas today and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a gentle, sexy comedy. The two actors have been on a giddyingly successful press tour to promote the film, with much of the coverage focusing on their closeness, their friendship, and their sex scenes. They have undeniable chemistry and the most roguish good looks you’re ever likely to see on two big Irish heads. In an era of media where audiences are lapping up same-sex male romance, it makes sense that the attention on Scott and Mescal is frenetic.

After two viewings I’m comfortable saying All of Us Strangers is one of the best films I’ve seen in years. I’ve been frantically warning people that it’s devastating, worrying their expectations have been misdirected by a “Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott hold puppies and talk dating red flags” video someone sent them. I want to prepare them to be beautifully devastated by trauma, loneliness, nostalgia and the haunting pain of “what if?”.

The press tour has been a delight, particularly to Irish audiences who feel so proud of these two men who went straight from last Friday’s gala screening at Dublin’s Light House cinema to a live interview on The Late Late Show. At that screening Andrew Scott struggled to hold back tears as host Brendan Courtney asked him about the coming out aspect of the film, which Courtney said was “so relatable to gays of a certain generation”. Scott remembered being 16 and gay in Dublin, where it was “illegal to hold somebody’s hand”, and compared it to the welcome the film is now receiving, calling it miraculous.

On The Late Late Show the chat quickly turned to shooting sex scenes for the film, which actors always say is the least sexy experience on earth. Mescal joked about being surrounded by “40 hairy grips” on a set on a Monday morning, while naked. It brings a whole new meaning to the Sunday-night Glenroe fear. The sex scenes in All of Us Strangers meld into the other layers of the film seamlessly. In Saltburn, another big film of the moment, there’s a bodily-fluid bathtub scene involving Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi which so quickly became embedded in popular culture lore that there are already a candle and a cocktail devoted to it. There’s a bodily-fluid scene in All of Us Strangers, too, but I didn’t even notice it during my first watch.


I mention Saltburn because recently, when Barry Keoghan hinted that he filmed a kissing scene for the film with Jacob Elordi that ended up on the cutting room floor, the internet went into a brief panic. I found myself caught up in it before feeling some familiar pangs of discomfort. The thirst for men loving men in popular culture is undeniable but not unproblematic. Criticism of queer love stories and their exploitation for straight, female audiences is not new. The fetishisation of gay men for and by straight women, while lesbian stories on screen have historically pandered hugely to the male gaze, means the queer community has been left out in the cold time and again when it comes to relatable romantic representation that feels authentic to the LGBTQ+ experience. And while male romances such as Call Me By Your Name, Heartstopper and Red, White and Royal Blue become mainstream hits, lesbian stories are often sidelined, ignored or cancelled. It’s a tangled topic because, although progress should be celebrated, queer love should not be exploited.

Scott and Mescal as romantic costars is intoxicating, and it’s interesting that their on-screen relationship is leading the promotional strategy when Scott’s relationship with his parents in All of Us Strangers is at the centre of the film. It would equally make sense for him to be doing his interviews alongside Claire Foy, who plays his perfectly 1980s mother. All that said, All of Us Strangers doesn’t feel as if it’s pandering to anyone – although I confess the only lens I have to watch it through is a straight, female one. Marketing it as a Mescal-Scott love story is clever, and the relationship in the film is beautiful. It’s a movie that hopefully, as Brendan Courtney said, is “so relatable” to the right people, while bringing beauty, regret, humour and heartbreak to everyone. Pack the tissues and two litres of water. You’ve been warned.