Reviews

All of Us Strangers  (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Andrew Haigh, UK/US, 2023, 106 mins

Cast:  Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, Claire Foy

Review by Carol Allen

Writer/director Andrew Haigh’s great gift is his understanding of people – their fears, their joys, their pain – and his ability to turn that into moving and engaging films that convince and move their audience.

In All of Us Strangers he gives us a very different and intriguing take on the ghost story while also embracing relationship  themes he’s handled before.  The film is based on a novel by Japanese writer Taichi Yamada but now set in contemporary London and it’s effectively a four hander.

Adam (Andrew Scott) lives alone in a tower block, which appears to be almost deserted.  He is a writer but is suffering from writer’s block – a lonely man, emotionally scarred by the fact that both his parents were killed in an accident when he was a child, which has left him incapable of getting close to another human being.   Then one evening Harry (Paul Mescal) knocks on his door.   Harry is amiable but rather drunk and he is obviously lonely and looking for company.   Adam politely but firmly gets rid of him.

Unsettled by the encounter he goes to the house in the suburbs where he lived with his parents before the accident and finds both the house and his parents exactly as they were when he was twelve years old just before they died.   Dad (Jamie Bell) and Mum (Claire Foy) are delighted to see their now grown up son and eager to catch up on his life.  When he returns to the flat, he meets Harry again.   This time things are different.  Something clicks between them and a love affair develops.   But Adam still has unfinished business with his parents, one of the  most important things being he has to tell them that he is gay.  How will they react?

The story is totally absorbing and very well acted by all four actors.   The love affair between Adam and Harry is sexually explicit but very delicately handled.  The feelings between them are the focus, emotions that Adam has never dared allow himself to feel before.   While the scenes between Adam and his parents are fascinating and very poignant.  It’s a whole different twist on “I see dead people”, acting out as they do the desire so many of us have that if only we could say to loved ones who are no longer here all the things we never could say when they were alive or never had the chance to say because they were gone too soon.  Both the parents and their son learn things about each other that they might never have learned even had they lived their lives out together.  A chance for the parents to see their little boy grown up and for all three to say the things they never were able to because they were separated too soon by death.

Scott is a consummate actor, who gives Adam a great intensity, which he will then unexpectedly break with a warm smile, while Mescal  as Harry is more laid back and apparently confident.   The four characters become so real to us that, as the “ghosts” start to lose their hold on life, like Adam we want to hold on to them.   And the final twist is heartbreaking. 

This is a beautiful film.   Go see it.