19 Jan 24
Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, Claire Foy
Tender, mesmerising, intoxicating, All of Us Strangers is a miracle of a movie. It's a hallucinatory, cathartic tale of family, grief, love and second chances, brought to the screen by a writer- director who has made a career of making films that pack an emotional punch.
Having earned critical acclaim for his searing dramas 45 Years and Lean On Pete, British filmmaker Andrew Haigh gets even more personal with this emotional story about a lonely screenwriter mysteriously reconnecting as an adult with the parents he lost as a child.
Adam (Andrew Scott) lives in a barely occupied new-build apartment block on the outskirts of London and is struggling to write his latest script, inspired by his '80s childhood. The monotony and isolation of his day-to-day life are forever changed when his happy-sad neighbour Harry (Paul Mescal) knocks on his door.
As their relationship develops, Adam is drawn back to the childhood house he shared with his late parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), where their ghostly presence welcomes him home.
Based on the 1987 novel Strangers by Japanese author Taichi Yamada, writing this film "was a long and sometimes painful process," Haigh says. "I wanted to pick away at my own past as Adam does in the film." As such, All Of Us Strangers avoids obvious ghost story tropes and centres on the spiritual connection between Adam, his mum and his dad in the wholesome, warming domesticity of family life.
Haigh wanted to explore "the complexities of both familial and romantic love" through the lens of a gay person who grew up during the 1980s, when homophobia and fearmongering associated with the AIDS crisis were rife. That particular theme can be heard in the nostalgic soundtrack – Frankie Goes to Hollywood's The Power Of Love is a repeated motif as well as the character aesthetics. Harry might be part of Adam's contemporary world but his stone-washed denim jacket, blonde-highlighted hair and patterned shirts – not to mention his moustache – bridge the age and time gap between the '80s and now.
Then there are the sometimes tense conversations between Adam and his parents about his sexuality. These scenes are honest and open as they grapple with what was left unsaid at the time and the unprocessed grief that lingers. A cast able to articulate the complexity of these emotions with tact, subtlety and depth has been celebrated by critics. "Scott, Mescal, Bell and Foy bounce off each other to hit stratospheric acting highs," says The Telegraph. Adds Little White Lies, "The chemistry between Scott and Mescal is atomic."
Scott, who has impressed across stage (Vanya) and screen (Sherlock and Fleabag), was Haigh's choice as lead from the beginning. "There are many nuances I was searching for in the film's exploration of queerness," the filmmaker says, "and I needed someone who could understand that on a profound level."
Nominated for 14 BIFAs, including Best British Independent Film, Haigh's film has received raves across the board. "A gorgeous story of love and loss that will stop you in your tracks," (Time Out); "All of Us Strangers is devastating. Erotic, nostalgic" (The Face).
It poses the question: what would you say to your departed loved ones if you had the chance? The answer is a beautifully poignant one that will sit with you long after the credits roll. Hanna Flint
A Single Man2009
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