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January 5, 2024 / Searchlight Pictures

Starring Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, Claire Foy

Directed By: Andrew Haigh

One night in his near-empty tower block in contemporary London, screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott) has a chance encounter with a mysterious neighbor Harry (Paul Mescal), who is the only other occupant of an apartment in the building. Harry, who's also gay, seems to want a relationship, but Adam is reluctant.

While working on a script, Adam is preoccupied with memories of the past and finds himself drawn back to the suburban town where he grew up, and the childhood home where his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), appear to be living, just as they were on the day they died, 30 years before.

Written By Darren

Rating 4 out of 5

All of Us Strangers boasts a stellar cast with two truly spectacular performances from Claire Foy and Jamie Bell, that makes this deeply moving and emotional drama one of the best films of this award season that is certain to not leave a dry eye in the audience.

When your film has a lead cast of Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy and Jamie Bell, the audience already wants to watch the film. It’s a powerhouse ensemble of some of the best talent in the United Kingdom currently that ensures incredible performances, and All of Us Strangers delivers exactly that. It’s hard to comprehend that Andrew Haigh has based this part family drama, part gay romance off a Japanese horror film, but Haigh has done away with the horror elements of the original source material and instead focuses on the idea of ghosts and the feeling of loneliness to creating a stirring drama that pulls on all the heart strings. And even though the ending will divide audiences, this heartfelt drama is sure to have theatres around the world crying their eyes out as Haigh spins his beautiful yet heart wrenching tale of love, loss and loneliness.

Having lost his parents at a young age, Adam has learnt to live without family. But when his parents magically reappear in his childhood home exactly as he remembers them on the day of their death thirty years later, Adam gets to know his parents as he never did when he was a child. At the same time, he strikes up a full fledged relationship with his mysterious neighbour Harry, leading Adam on a transformative journey that allows him to have the meaningful relationships that he has been missing his entire life and confront the ghosts of his past.

What would you do if you were given the chance to reconnect with lost loved ones that you have been grieving for the majority of your life? That is the question that Andrew Haigh poses in All of Us Strangers as Adam returns to his childhood home and finds his parents alive decades after their passing. It’s an emotionally stirring exploration of grief, loneliness, love and loss as Adam is able to show his parents the man he has grown up to be, while getting the chance to get to know them better as they passed while he was a young boy. Past and present begin to collide as Adam explores the new relationship with his parents, while trying to avoid the heartbreak he felt as a small child, at the same time as he strikes up a romantic relationship with his mysterious neighbour Harry. As an audience member, we watch Adam rediscover the joy of having a family, while he goes through challenging moments such as coming out to his parents, and revisiting their death. It provides the actors rich dramatic material to work with, leaving the film at its finest when Adam shares moments with his parents, ensuring that there are numerous points throughout the film when you will be reaching for tissues to dry your eyes. These moments are honest, never leaning into overly dramatic monologues, instead having natural conversations play out that you would have with your own parents. There is a tenderness to each interaction between the characters that fills your heart up, only to then tear it apart with some of the most emotionally raw moments of the year. It's all thanks to Haigh’s meticulous screenplay that captures every faucet of the human spirit and his direction which allows these moments to play out naturally on screen.

Up to the last ten minutes, All of Us Strangers was about to crack my top ten films of the year, but the direction the story takes in its final scene is going to divide audiences. It’s never enough to make anyone hate the film, and while I guessed the final reveal very early on in the film, it feels mean towards Adam’s character. After all the character development in the film, allowing him to come to terms with his parent’s passing and being the only individual alive in his family, moving forward from his loneliness and beginning to embrace life again, it felt unintentionally cruel what the story does to Adam, as it pushes him back to where he started in the film but in an even worse way. It’s an emotional story beat that will for sure have audiences reacting profoundly, but it’s one that lessens the impact of the preceding scene which is without question one of the most emotional scenes of the entire year. It’s never enough to sink the entire film, as for the most part All of Us Strangers is absolutely brilliant, but the ending is a lot to swallow after such an incredibly beautiful and heartfelt film.

Leading the film is Scott as Adam in a spectacular performance. Scott effortlessly carries the film from start to finish as he grapples with the complex emotions Adam is feeling over the death of his parents, their sudden reappearance, and the serious relationship he finds himself in with his neighbour Harry. He does a wonderful job of portraying these complex emotional feelings using his body language and the sorrow filled look in his eyes to convey what his character is going through. Complex and layered, excelling just as much in the quieter moments while sharing a tender moment with any of his co-stars, this is not only one of my favourite performances from Scott yet, but one of the best of the year. Continuing his streak of great performances, Mescal once again proves why he is one of the most in demand young actors working today. As Harry, Mescal is mesmerizing and his effortless romantic chemistry with Scott explodes across the screen, bringing to life a tender and beautiful relationship that is a crucial element of the film. At the same time, Mescal finds a tortured soul in Harry that allows him to bond so easily with Adam, creating a depth and rawness in a single scene over his troubled relationship with his family that showcases his extraordinary talents as an actor. While it’s not my favourite performance from Mescal, it’s a great performance that pairs perfectly with the rest of the ensemble.

Though for me personally, it is the supporting performances of Foy and Bell as Adam’s parents that were the standout performances of the film. Both Foy and Bell give quiet, understated performances as Adam’s parents, meeting their adult son for the first time. There is an unspoken sorrow that characterizes their performances, as they know they have passed and missed watching their son grow up, and it leads to some truly powerful moments. None more so than their final scene together which is the most tragic scene of the entire film with an overwhelming feeling of catharsis, creating an emotional raw moment that is simultaneously heartbreaking and freeing, ensuring that you won’t soon forget it. Foy’s motherly warmth embraces both Adam and the audience like a warm hug, showing great concern for her son and an understanding for the life he has chosen to live, after dealing with the initial shock of it. There are complex moments to her performance, such as the scene where Adam comes out to her, but Foy plays each moment beautifully and with a caring tenderness, which makes for one of the year’s best supporting performances. It’s another stellar performance from Foy that will hopefully see her getting nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards this year after being passed over last year for her work in Women Talking. Bell, on the other hand, has a kindness to him as Adam’s father, playing everything cool and leaving a lot unspoken as he silently watches his son. It’s a great contrast to Foy’s overly active character, but he finds the same beautiful moments with Scott during their scenes together. As a pairing, Bell and Foy make for one of the most loving parent duos on screen this year. There is a natural ease and familiarity between them that ensures that within minutes of meeting them, it feels like the audience have known Adam’s parents for years.

Even over a week later as I write this review, my heart has still not recovered from the emotional experience that is All of Us Strangers; there is no doubt that it is going to take some time to fully recover. But, even knowing this, it is worth all of the emotions to experience this truly tender, raw and beautiful film from Andrew Haigh that is one of the stronger films I have seen all year. Even with an ending that I found unusually cruel after the beautiful, catharsis story that proceeds it, All of Us Strangers is a heartfelt film led by the brilliant pairing and performances of Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, but it is the outstanding supporting performances of Claire Foy and Jamie Bell that makes this aching, heartbreaking exploration of loss, love, and loneliness worth all the emotional trauma.

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