Almost Strangers (US title)
Written and Directed by Stephen Poliakoff.
"If you take any family and get them together, and get them to stay up long enough, the stories will come tumbling out, there are at least three great stories in any family..."
At an elaborately organised reunion, held in a grand London hotel, Raymond (Michael Gambon), his wife Esther (Jill Baker) and their son Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) are slowly drawn into their ancestors' family tree. Meeting distant, and not so distant, relatives for the first time they begin to establish their positions within this eccentric and eclectic family. Helping them on their way, Stephen (Anton Lesser), the appointed 'pedigree-hunter' and archivist, unravels their entwined stories with the aid of his extraordinary collection of family photographs. In an attempt to piece together and make sense of their forgotten or obscured personal histories, the past impacts on the present and they come face to face with the darkest of family secrets.
The series achieved critical acclaim with Gambon winning the BAFTA’s Best Actor and the show won the Royal Television Society award for Best Serial and Best Writer and Poliakoff was awarded the BAFTA Dennis Potter Award. International acclaim included winning a Peabody award and being nominated for an International Emmy award.
The film was largely shot in the famous Claridges hotel in London, using real hotel rooms and corridors and no studio sets were used, giving the show a very particular look. The big family reunion banquet was filmed in the Park Lane ballroom and the closing party sequences at St Paul's Walden Bury, where the Queen Mother was brought up.
Matthew MacFadyen, playing Michael Gambon's son, gives a marvellous performance in his first leading role and is superbly supported by Lindsay Duncan as the mysterious aunt, Claire Skinner, Toby Stephens and Timothy Spall.
Perfect Strangers can be watched on the BBC iPlayer as part of the Stephen Poliakoff Collection.