EST. 2009

January 21, 2021

These London Strangers

FROM THE VERY FIRST SCENE OF A CROWDED LONDON STREET, Jude and Natalie in slow motion, Damian Rice singing a cappella, I was captivated. I was a teenager when I first saw Mike Nichols' Closer, long before I would be living in London, or experiencing the messy, confusing, exhausting, but ultimately exciting nature of adult entanglements.

Based on Patrick Marber's 1997 play of the same name, Closer is a series of dialogues between four characters, whose chance encounters lead them into obsessive and unhealthy relationship patterns with each other. Set in London, the film emphasizes the rarity of romantic closeness, by juxtaposing crowded scenes with moments of intimacy. "Hello, stranger." says Natalie Portman's character when she and Jude Law's character first meet. In a sea of anonymous faces, your stranger stands out.

Closer has always been a favorite film, but even more so these days as I better relate to its themes, and miss the pre-pandemic London that I love. Seeing familiar streets with unmasked commuters, the theatre with its intermission crowds, galleries on opening night with urbanites and roaming wait staff; I feel nostalgia for what used to be "my normal" before quickly becoming "the new normal". And nostalgia for people who used to be "my stranger" before quickly becoming strangers again.

Watch it for: the memorable dialogue, the timeless costume design, Jude Law in the early 2000s. Love it for: the fairly accurate chance encounters, and the messy, confusing, exhausting, but ultimately exciting entanglements they inspire.

Closer, 2004. Directed by Mike Nichols.