Liam Hanlon takes a look at Andrew Haigh’s film.

Adapted from Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel Strangers, Andrew Haigh brings us All of Us Strangers, his first feature length film since 2018’s Lean on Pete. 

Andrew Scott plays screenwriter Adam, seemingly alone in a high-rise London apartment block, watching Top of the Pops repeats and feasting off takeaway leftovers. The solitude is interrupted by a wailing fire alarm in the apartment block and he leaves to stand alone outside bewildered at the lack of residents until he notices the sight of a man glaring down at Adam from a few floors below his apartment. As Adam returns to watch Top of the Pops, the same man knocks on his door, drunkenly accompanied by whiskey, and asks to come in. Adam turns away Harry (Paul Mescal) and resumes writing. The next day, Adam ventures to a familiar area and stumbles upon his father (Jamie Bell), who brings him back to his childhood home where he is greeted by his mother (Claire Foy). Yet, his parents died in a car crash decades ago and suddenly have reappeared in his life, younger than Adam is now and he embarks upon an unexpected chapter of his life with them, and with Harry, after developing a relationship with him. 

Synopsizing this film is a difficult task considering the layers of the narrative that are so emotionally devastating and beautifully poignant to experience. Andrew Scott spearheads the film with such ease and commitment and there are sequences where his facial expressions provide meaning and it takes a skilled actor like Scott to achieve and portray such a nuanced performance. The publicity tour for All of Us Strangers offered a glimpse into Scott’s and Mescal’s offscreen chemistry and it effectively translated on-screen with them portraying Adam and Harry with credible affection. Their relationship is explored both creatively and minimally throughout and their dynamic screen time together is compelling viewing. 

Claire Foy and Jamie Bell, as unnamed mother and father, have individual sequences with Adam that are powerful for their simplicity with dialogue and space that will stun you. As parents of a child in the 1980s, their attitudes towards homosexuality reflect Thatcher-era/AIDS ignorances, but their respective verbal/non-verbal acceptances of Adam’s coming out will resonate with many who have had similar experiences and struggles associated with coming out. Foy and Bell are beyond impressive here and a certain sequence involving Pet Shop Boys’s ‘Always on My Mind’ with Adam and his parents is one of the film’s pivotal moments. 

What makes this film work on many levels is Andrew Haigh’s direction. He possesses such a deft touch in conveying human experiences on screen and there is a moving beauty in its simplicity. Taking 2015’s 45 Years as a previous example, Haigh concludes the film with a close-up of Charlotte Rampling’s character that is elegantly haunting and captures the emotion of the narrative within one simple sequence. Here, Haigh uses simple shots of Adam and other characters to construct a narrative with an emotional payoff and release as the plot concludes. Using music to its full advantage, All of Us Strangers utilises 1980s songs, and artefacts, to create a narrative that is concurrently Adam’s past, present and future. Not that it ever should have been just a ‘Christmas’ song, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’ becomes both a verbal and musical motif here with one specific use as the film concludes which will melancholically linger for audiences with its significant narrative resonance.

All of Us Strangers feels like a spiritual sequel to Haigh’s Weekend and will become a queer cinema staple. The cinematography and mise-en-scène amps up a sense of the isolation felt by its characters, and amidst this isolation, queer audiences will find this cathartic viewing and will have such empathy with and support for Adam and Harry’s respective queer journeys. It is quite possibly Andrew Haigh’s finest moment. 


All of Us Strangers is in cinemas from 26th January 2024



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