Andrew Scott navigates love with a neighbor as well as the mysterious appearance of his long-dead parents in this melancholic and mind-bending blend of romance and fantasy.
Andrew Haigh is an English filmmaker well-known in independent film circles for United Kingdom-produced dramas such as Weekend, Lean On Pete and 45 Years, the latter of which netted actress Charlotte Rampling a Best Actress nomination at the 2016 Oscars. Haigh’s newest film All Of Us Strangers is almost certain to add its two lead actors as well as himself in the awards conversation, and also provoke conversations among moviegoers who choose to see it for its stellar performances, and psychological twists as well as turns for the fantastical that make it one of the most unique and spellbinding films of this awards season.
All Of Us Strangers follows a lonely screenwriter named Adam (Andrew Scott) who is struggling to move forward on his current project caused by suffering from a quiet depression. One day he travels to his childhood hometown where he discovers his father (Jamie Bell) and mother (Claire Foy) are mysteriously living life just as they were before their tragic death in a car accident when he was twelve years old. Adam’s fascination piques even further upon meeting Harry (Paul Mescal), a homosexual man who lives in his apartment complex.
The two fall instantly in love, and Harry gives Adam the kind of affection he had been missing from his life. But Harry’s entry triggers a barrage of new emotions and grief within Adam which he aims to process in visits with his apparently resurrected parents. But is there more to their appearances than Adam cares to recognize? Just what is the reasoning behind them, and what effects will these have on Adam mentally and emotionally in his pursuit for a loving relationship?
To reveal those as well as how they affect Adam’s relationship with Harry risks treading into spoiler territory, but All Of Us Strangers must be commended for Haigh’s genius ability to ground psychological and fantastical elements in an affecting realism within the script of his latest film. Adam’s visits with his parents don’t look any different than the days he spends alone in his apartment; they feel rustic and homely, not unlike the houses of those audience members with loving, caring parents, or those who wish they had parents like Adam’s in their personal lives.
What also contributes to the nostalgic melancholy that tinges All Of Us Strangers is Haigh’s direction; there’s a raw realism added to every scene in which handheld camerawork is implemented, even in frivolous scenes where Adam and his parents decorate a Christmas tree set to the classic Pet Shop Boys tune, “Always On My Mind”. Meanwhile, intimate instances between Adam and Harry see extreme closeups of Harry’s hands running down his body, going the extra mile to ensure the spectator feels the same love on-screen as Adam does.
And the small ensemble of All Of Us Strangers is phenomenal across the board, with Andrew Scott poised to break out in his first lead narrative film performance after supporting roles in Catherine Called Birdy and the Amazon hit show Fleabag. He speaks to his parents with a natural, impassioned inquisition during each deep, heavy conversation in their company, but he also uses impeccable restraint to add an emotional undercurrent when necessary, like when Adam observes his parents through eyes glassy with tears in disbelief of what he’s seeing.
As aforementioned, though, All Of Us Strangers takes some turns that are sure to be divisive. Once the striking twist is revealed and viewers understand what’s really going on in the metaphysical scheme of Haigh’s latest, they’ll either want to see the film again the second after it’s over or be so thrown for a loop, they won’t even bother to return to the sad world in which the movie takes place. It’s also worth noting that the themes of grief have been pondered upon in film a lot recently, to the point where what audiences are left to think about may be too familiar from what they’ve seen in other recent cinematic fare.
But how All Of Us Strangers explores grief and turns it back on those who watch the film is fresh, and the results of Haigh’s originality will make open-minded patrons converse long and hard about their interpretation of the film’s reveals, memories both happy and sad of the lives they’ve had with their families, and the stellar performances from its ensemble cast. What starts out as an affecting romance with elements of fantasy morphs into a cosmic exploration of the LGBTQ+ psyche that’s equal parts haunting and sorrowful yet beautiful and celestial. It’s innovative in that regard, and that’s why curious onlookers shouldn’t be a stranger to theaters and go see All Of Us Strangers this award season.