All of Us Strangers, 2023.
Directed by Andrew Haigh.
Starring Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, and Claire Foy.
A screenwriter drawn back to his childhood home enters into a fledgling relationship with a mysterious neighbor as he then discovers his parents appear to be living just as they were on the day they died, 30 years before.
Andrew Haigh has earned no shortage of acclaim for films like Weekend and 45 Years. This has continued with his latest All of Us Strangers, based on the novel Strangers by Taichi Yamada. It focuses on Adam (Andrew Scott), a screenwriter living in an eerily empty apartment block in London with just his fellow occupant, Harry (Paul Mescal) for company.
Adam is working on a project about his childhood and his parents’ death in a car crash when he was younger. He takes a trip to his childhood town of East Grinstead and finds his parents living in his childhood home, as he last remembered them, and able to interact with them and recount how his life panned out. The narrative interweaves the exploration of grief and conversations between him and his parents, with his relationship with Harry and their contrasting characters.
For people who have experienced any form of grief from losing a family member at a young age, this film will hit especially hard, focusing on things left unsaid and not having enough time with those we love. It is not without lighter moments though and Jamie Bell and Claire Foy as Adam’s parents pepper it with comedy about how things have changed since Adam was a child.
Coupled with Adam dealing with seeing his parents after so long we get a sense of him opening up and Harry letting him out of his shell and lonely existence. London here feels like an alien planet or ghost town, the world of their apartment block, is eerie and spectral, as far removed as you can get from the postcard depictions of the city, Jamie D. Ramsay’s cinematography is one of the strongest elements in an immaculately constructed film, coupled with Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch’s ethereal score.
As both a meditation on sexuality and grief, it never feels overbearing and is deftly handled. At just over 100 minutes, there is never a wasted moment as Haigh beautifully captures the mundanity of Adam’s life coupled with the remorse and joy that fill the moments with his parents. An extra layer is added having the film shot at Haigh’s own childhood home, making it more personal for him, in spite of it not being an autobiographical project.
The performances truly sing with Scott in a rare lead film role magnificent and perhaps in the mix for awards. He is reserved but captures the confusion, sadness and joy that accompanies his situation. Mescal is used more sparingly than expected but shares impeccable chemistry with Scott, making their relationship believable and earned, this continues an outstanding run for Mescal coming off the back of Aftersun and other well-received projects. Jamie Bell and Claire Foy are an emotional powerhouse that the film is built around, never overstaying their welcome and employed perfectly. Similarly, to 45 Years, the small, intimate nature of the film is ideal, showing Haigh’s understanding of human interactions.
All of Us Strangers is a gut-wrenching reflection on grief that will leave few dry eyes in cinemas. It is another triumphant film for Andrew Haigh and makes the most of its cast who are all spot on. It offers an untypical depiction of London that adds to the already ghostlike premise and questions what is real and not. This looks set to be a major awards contender and ranks among the year’s best.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★