Film Review: All of Us Strangers | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, December 9th, 2023  

All of Us Strangers

Studio: Searchlight
Andrew Haigh

Oct 01, 2023 Web Exclusive
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Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers is a devastating, profound look at how we desperately hold onto the people and memories that link us to our pasts.

Adapted from Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel Strangers, Haigh’s film centers around Adam (Andrew Scott), a struggling screenwriter working in a vast, mostly empty London apartment complex. After a fire alarm scares him out of the building, he crosses paths with Henry (Paul Mescal). Initially repelled by Henry’s intoxicated behavior, Adam continues his solitary lifestyle. Attempting to write a script about his parents who died when he was younger, Adam travels to his childhood home. There, he finds his parents (Jamie Bell and Claire Foy) alive and overjoyed that their child has returned to them after all these years, even if in an adult body. This revelation doesn’t shock Adam. Rather, it comes as a sense of relief.

Interacting with his parents again revitalizes Adam. He instantly sparks a relationship with Henry, and the two quickly become close to one another. He continues visiting his parents, addressing elements of his life that occurred after their deaths–whether that be his coming out, his working life or regrets from how he interacted with them as a child. Revisiting the past, though, has a price, as Adam slowly begins to lose touch with his reality.

All of Us Strangers’ plot is deceptively simple. The story bounces between Adam’s visits with his parents and Adam’s experiences with Henry. During the film’s first half, Haigh balances these storylines in terms of length and emotional tension, never spending too much time on one narrative before alternating to the other. The decision to divide the film in this way is smart, as both sides of the story receive enough attention to make the characters and their relationships feel emotionally valuable. When the plotlines finally mesh in the film’s second half, Haigh’s skilled direction and smooth transitioning neatly tie the story together, communicating the film’s themes on the power and pain of memory clearly and effectively.

While Haigh’s direction is commendable and deeply complex, his script makes All of Us Strangers unforgettable. The source material demands a lot from an adaptation. Adam’s parents are characters who essentially live within the confines of his mind. Adam and Paul progress from strangers to deeply entwined lovers at lightning-fast speed. Without developing these four characters well enough, the film would fall apart. Haigh’s script manages to clear all of these pitfalls through its usage of sharp, gut-punching dialogue and weaponization of silence.

One of the most surprising and effective parts of the film is that Haigh wastes no time exploring the emotionally toiling aspects of Adam’s relationship with his parents. During every visit, the script includes profound one-liners or well-developed monologues that highlight the extent of Adam’s affection and disdain for his parents. During sequences where Adam is alone, Haigh purposely avoids dialogue for long periods to highlight the sobering reality of the character’s loneliness. Taking the combination of these two things into account, it doesn’t come as a surprise that he would continue to revisit his parents, regardless of the mental and physical toll it takes on him. It’s still an escape, a reminder of what the character once had, of who he once was.

All of Us Strangers also boasts some of the year’s best performances from all four of its principal cast members. In the film’s central roles, Scott and Mescal shine, perfectly embodying their characters’ struggles and channeling enough chemistry to make their relationship believable. Bell and Foy are incredible, consistently delivering the more difficult, emotionally complicated monologues with confidence and finesse.

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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