All of Us Strangers

Adam (Andrew Scott) lives a lonely life in a London hi-rise that doesn’t appear to have many tenants, but when he meets one, Harry (Paul Mescal), an intense relationship begins to form.  Feeling the need to visit his roots, Adam journeys out to his home town and finds his mother and father (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), who died in a car crash when he was young, alive in a family home seemingly suspended in time and begins to express to them just who he really is in “All of Us Strangers.”

Laura's Review: A-

Writer/director Andrew Haigh  turns to Taichi Yamada's novel ‘Strangers’ for his latest yet it feels every bit a piece with his prior films, examining the smallest details of human behavior that draw us together and push us apart.   “All of Us Strangers” is, in a way, a culmination of Haigh’s prior three movies, featuring, as it does, a burgeoning gay relationship (“Weekend”), a heterosexual marriage (“45 Years”) and a child’s yearning for a family ripped away from him (“Lean on Pete”).

There is something otherworldly, almost apocalyptic, in Adam’s isolated existence in a modern London hi rise that is eerily vacant save for one other tenant.  He is a screenwriter, a career that he never has to leave his apartment for, so we can feel the shock to his system when a drunken Harry knocks at his door.  Adam is too withdrawn and fearful to allow the man offering him a drink inside but we can see from his shy half smile that his curiosity, even sexual desire, has been engaged.  When Adam finally does get out, he doesn’t head into the city, but to a leafy suburb, where he runs into his dad, looking just the way he was when Adam was a boy.  ‘Look who I found loitering in the park,” dad announces to his wife as he brings Adam into his childhood home for a family visit.

There is something of Joanna Hogg’s “The Eternal Daughter” here, another British film about an adult child trying to reconnect with a parent who is no longer living, but in that film, Tilda Swinton was trying to learn about her mother in a ghostly hotel.  Here it is Adam who is trying to reveal himself within a time warp, specifically as a gay man, to parents still stalled in 1980’s sensibilities.  Their reactions are quite different.  His mother expresses horror over the potential for bullying, loneliness and AIDS.  His father is more immediately supportive while coming to grips with his failure to protect his son from the actual bullying he incurred at the age of twelve (Carter John Grout plays Adam in flashbacks).  The family visits continue as Adam begins to venture out into the bigger world of London with Harry while opening up to intimacy in his cloistered apartment.

This is essentially a four-hander and each is critical to Haigh’s vision, Bell and Foy incredibly moving as parents grappling with their son’s past and his future while also relatably real.  Mescal has charisma to burn as the more emotionally open but equally lost gay man.  Scott gradually allows himself to embrace his sexuality with parental support, essentially growing up and coming out of his shell before our eyes yet retaining that sweet touch of shyness.  Cinematographer Jamie Ramsay’s (“Living”) work is essential in not only framing these characters’ intimate moments but giving them a mystical, magical quality.         

“All of Us Strangers” concludes in a way many may not see coming but which perfectly encapsulates everything Haigh is saying about the fear and freedom of being oneself.  It is a well earned gut punch of an ending to a film which will continue to haunt well after one has left the theater.

Robin's Review: B+

Searchlight Pictures releases "All of Us Strangers" in select theaters on 12/22/23, expanding on 12/29 and 1/5/24.