Writer-director Andrew Haigh is gifted at peeling back the complex layers of love and connection as shown in his previous films Weekend and 45 Years. His sixth feature film following Lean on Pete is All of Us Strangers which is inspired by Japanese author Taichi Yamada’s novel, Strangers, and plays out as a tenderly crafted ghost story that strikes a similarly melancholy yet joyful blend of tone to Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman.
Being touched by tragedy at an early age is a heavy load to carry. For middle-aged screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott) the unexpected death of his parents at age 12 has left him with emotional scars that he is working through via a screenplay. It’s nearly Christmas, he’s alone in an anonymous yet chic apartment block and his only company is the fella who has knocked on his door with a bottle of whisky following a late-night fire alarm test; enter sexy, moustachioed Paul Mescal as the endearingly vulnerable Harry. “How do you cope… with the quiet?” he asks.
The answer is he disappears into a fantasy world to visit his parents at the age they were when they died in 1987. Now an adult himself, his mum (Claire Foy) and dad (Jamie Bell) are delighted to see him and are interested to hear how his life is going. He tells them all about his job and comes out to his mum, whose 1980s attitude towards being gay (fearful and concerned about AIDS) shines a light on how far society has progressed since then.
Meanwhile, Adam strikes up a romance with the younger Harry, and learns to open up more. Their interactions are exhilaratingly alive and full of passion and intimacy. Every character is credibly written and each performance by the main cast of four actors is imbued with real emotional depth.
All of Us Strangers is working on multiple levels with its seemingly simple concept beautifully executed. It shows its central character exploring his need to confront grief, move on with his life and chase love. These things all coalesce to become one big minefield of confusion and discovery that Haigh navigates with nuance, humour and powerful needle drops. The surreal use of Blur’s Death of a Party is perfection as are Haigh’s beautifully framed shots of the London skyline.
All Of Us Strangers was seen and reviewed at the London Film Festival. It will be released in cinemas on 26 January 2024