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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High-class soap . . .
This 3-part production from the BBC is chiefly for fans of high-class soap. While intended to be full of ironies about the dubious pride we take in being related to notable people (especially when they're glamorous, upper class, and wealthy), the central story line is a series of revelations - all of them family secrets - that turn out to be more mysteriously promising in...
Published on October 18, 2006 by Ronald Scheer

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Drudgery to watch....glacial speed detracts immensely.
Some intriguing cast members. Too somber overall. Plot is jarringly lacking in a comprehensive reason to continue watching. Cost is vastly high to overall performance and plot. Film quality and setting are 4+ stars.
Published 18 months ago by susan worrell


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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High-class soap . . ., October 18, 2006
This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
This 3-part production from the BBC is chiefly for fans of high-class soap. While intended to be full of ironies about the dubious pride we take in being related to notable people (especially when they're glamorous, upper class, and wealthy), the central story line is a series of revelations - all of them family secrets - that turn out to be more mysteriously promising in their expectation than they are in fact.

The performances make it all watchable. Michael Gambon is in top form as a curmudgeonly black sheep of the family (with comparisons early on to his cranky and embittered Singing Detective) and Lindsay Duncan as a beautiful, eternally sad woman of certain years who carries an unspoken grief with unfailing dignity. Together, they make a compelling contrast, and you wish the story had more to do with their relationship. Alas, it follows the adventures of his twenty-something son (Matthew Macfadyen), who takes a shine to two upper-crust cousins, while bedding one of them and finally meddling in family affairs that are beyond his simple wish to have age-old animosities resolved.

Writer-director Stephen Poliakoff provides a commentary for the film, revealing the experiences from his own life used as source material for the dramatic situations and characters he has created, plus observations on the film's production, locations used (like Claridge's) and other off-camera matters. A short featurette includes additional comments by Poliakoff and a few members of the cast.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent!, April 24, 2007
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This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
In "Almost Strangers," Stephen Poliakoff weaves a subtle spell. I recall thoroughly enjoying the engaging story and the superb acting--I mean, one can't beat Michael Gambon, Matthew Macfadyen, and Toby Stephens--when, totally unawares, I had become so entranced with the stories within the story of an extended family, that I had to watch all 237 minutes of it at one sitting.

Since the story is told from the point of view of Daniel (the son of the black sheep of the clan), who knows very little about the rest of the family, the viewer is put into a similar position, first of discomfort, as he moves from stereotypes, finally of fascinated affection, as he slowly unravels the secrets not only of his family but also of his own past.

Nor do the writers disappoint; all the clues deftly planted in the first scenes of the film, are revealed in a magical ending.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compelling storytelling, December 31, 2006
By 
E Rice (western ny state) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
finally, this wonderful series has made it to the u.s.

one of the things i most like about poliakoff's work is that it avoids the melodramatic, the sensational and the pathological. also the infintile. this is a story about people who do not shoot up, or shoot, do not beat others up, do not throw temper tantrums on sidewalks, do not plan elaborate and vicious crimes. soap operas offer hysterical and mentally unbalanced people doing immoral, unethical and contemptible things to those around them. poliakoff offers characters like the rest of us, but possibly better dressed.

this is storytelling that captivates with wonderful plotting, wonderful dialogue, and wonderful stories. the characters are annoying, irritating, charming, eccentric, courageous, talented, kind, selfish, admirable and hateful and very real. if you loose interest in the story, the sets will keep your attention.

there are a few scenes that keep the series from being child-friendly in the united states, which is a shame, since the series could spark an interest in family history in many children. as the dialogue has it, 'there are at least three great stories in any family.'
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do We Ever Really "Know" Our Family?, February 10, 2009
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R. Crane (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
Director/writer Stephen Poliakoff's movies focus on particular aspects of British life. In "Gideon's Daughter", Poliakoff captures the emptiness of celebrity culture, when it had reached unheard of heights after Princess Diana's death. In "Almost Strangers", the topic is family relationships, and the obsession with genealogy--digging to discover famous relations.

The setting for this 3 part BBC series is a family reunion, a gathering of relatives, many of whom have not seen each other for decades. As they congregate for receptions, lunches, dinners and lectures, we see a typical mix of elderly and young people from a variety of economic and social backgrounds, though they all are connected by blood. One of them is the self-appointed family historian, who has amassed photographs of their past and shares them with family members.

What makes this series so textured and fascinating is how Poliakoff uses images in the photographs to tell the backstories of these people. The stories themselves are often unexpected and shocking. What you see in reality hides the truths of the past, but you can decipher the pain, suffering, love and joy at key points in their lives in their old photographs. As the series begins, it is almost boring seeing all these people, but as it progresses and their stories unfold, you can hardly believe how interesting their various lives have been. It is a terrific lesson not to meet people and make assumptions based on appearances.

In a commentary Poliakoff discusses his own difficult relationship with his father, and the series reflects that difficulty in various family relationships. It is a brilliant incisive look into the private lives of a family: the good, the bad, and the humiliating. It is one of those experiences that afterwards you feel as though you actually knew everybody and that the experience was real. Highly recommended.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT A TREAT, April 15, 2008
This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
This is a must see - the story, the actors, the cinematography, the direction, etc. I did not want it to end - it was so enjoyable - every family, large or small, could relate to some of the issues at hand. Not all of us have a villa to go to; but then, the movie does that for us and in so many other wonderful ways as well. I respect(and always do)the way the English honor "older" actors with roles worthy of their unsurpassed talent and careers. It seems the rest of the world puts you out to pasture if you are over 30! The ensemble cast was a mix of all ages and truly worthy of your time. It is my pleasure recommending "Almost Strangers" to you and your families. Enjoy.....Mary Hanley in Simsbury, Connecticut
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MATTHEW MACFADYEN - BRILLIANT ACTOR, August 6, 2008
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This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
I just love British movies/BBC TV movies. I bought Almost Strangers because it was in my "recommendations list" and read all the good reviews. Love it and will treasure this. I've been watching this once a day, after a stressful day at work. A combination of drama and comedy. Michael Gambon is a superb actor, so as Matthew MacFadyen, as well as the other actors - Lindsay Duncan, Timothy Spall, Toby Stephens, Claire Skinner. I like their characters and how they portrayed their characters so well. I like the plot of the movie - every family has some secrets, exposing them give peace to every one. Very good ending, very well done. Very good story, very good director, and superb actors. I just like to watch Brit movies, that's it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing film, November 5, 2013
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This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
This is one of the greatest films ever, I'm not joking. The drama is so powerful, and so beautiful, too. I cried just at how beautiful is, that almost never happens. I ususally cry in very sad or very happy moments, and here I seem to cry at just sheer beauty of the story line, of the characters. The director shot this movie in such a way that touches you very deeply, the music is ethereal, and the cast is just dreamy. The beautiful and talanted Matthew Macfadyen just shines with all the power of his immense talent and charm in this. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly paced, October 24, 2013
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This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
I read some reviews where this show was dinged for being too slow. However, considering the subject matter, and the accurate depiction of how difficult it can be for an outsider to extract meaningful information about a family's "dark secrets," I felt that this was paced perfectly.

The slowness of the events gave me time to figure out some of the plot developments on my own. Compared to the typical short attention span presentations of modern Hollywood movies, I absolutely loved this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Drudgery to watch....glacial speed detracts immensely., July 1, 2013
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This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
Some intriguing cast members. Too somber overall. Plot is jarringly lacking in a comprehensive reason to continue watching. Cost is vastly high to overall performance and plot. Film quality and setting are 4+ stars.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matthew Macfadyen is God!, January 26, 2011
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This review is from: Almost Strangers (DVD)
I recently started watching Season One of MI-5 and was enchanted with the performance of Matthew Macfadyen. He's terrific in every way. Tall, handsome, sensitive yet strong, with a voice that is a classic theater voice that enthralls you and draws you in. So I sought out other things he's done and that led me to Almost Strangers.

I watched it in one day and I have to say it was one of the most moving and amazing TV programs I have ever seen. The writing and directing is just top notch. The actors give pitch perfect performances and while Michael Gambon (his usual brilliant self) has the flashy role and makes everything of it it is Matthew Macfadyen's performance that you will most remember. His quiet dignity and all that is behind those eyes is used to best effect as he tries to unravel his new relationships with relatives he has never met before. His naivete in thinking he can help others and, thereby, help himself is simply stunning.

I can't say enough good things about this program. It's one of the best things I've ever seen and it stayed with me for days. Don't miss a chance to see it!
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Almost Strangers
Almost Strangers by Stephen Poliakoff (DVD - 2006)
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