Director: Andrew Haigh Starring: Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, Jamie Bell Running Time: 106 minutes
Film criticism has a tendency to describe films as packing an emotional ‘gut punch’, I’ve seen it many times and never really understood what they meant. And then I saw All of Us Strangers.
All of Us Strangers based on the novel Strangers by Taichi Yamada, follows Adam (masterfully played by Andrew Scott) a lonely screenwriter languishing in a near-empty tower block in London. One night a neighbour from their relatively deserted block, Harry (Paul Mescal) stops by clearly seeking something; distraction, sex, simply to be heard by another human being for a bit. We can tell that Adam wants to be someone who could invite Harry in, but he isn’t and so he doesn’t. The moment’s missed. Later, the pair come together again and this time fall into a tender rhythm that continues for the length of the film.
The film is quite theatrical, we explore limited spaces but the cinematography from Jamie Ramsay makes them feel fully realised. The large windows of the apartment building we often see Adam looking through give us the sense that life is happening outside while he’s in a sort of self-imposed statis. Rich, dreamy colours drenched in warm light such azure blues, purples, oranges; painting us into an emotional landscape worthy of Douglas Sirk, priming the audience for the story we’re receiving. Scenes between Adam and his parents take place in writer/director Andrew Haigh’s childhood home, and the nostalgia translates really well as we follow the interactions between a son and his parents who died 30 years previous.
The prevailing throughline in All of Us Strangers is a deep sense of longing; we feel it from Jamie Bell and Claire Foy’s wonderful performances as parents who’ve gotten a second chance at getting to know their now-grown son, we feel it from Adam through his love for his parents and wish to connect with Harry, we feel it from Harry who’s single despite his best efforts, and if your experience of the film is anything like mine, you’ll likely find yourself reflecting on your own relationships with a sense of yearning too. Haigh challenges us to be present; both while watching the film, but also by imparting a lesson about relationships and our part within them. We watch this story unfold exploring the mechanics of pain and how it can hold us back from what we want, reconciling missed opportunities for connection and being able to go back and fix things that in real life would stay broken – it’s simply a masterclass in emotion.
All of Us Strangers is equal parts devastation and life-affirming. It sounds trite but listen, go into this one ready to meet this film on its own terms and let it move you. (5 / 5)