The following All of Us Strangers review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
What if you were given the chance to tell your parents the parts of your life that you never got to before they passed away? And what if you were able to hear your parents speak pivotal, meaningful phrases that you never encountered as a child? Those are the core, albeit introductory, questions explored in Andrew Haigh‘s newest film All of Us Strangers, starring Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott.
Mescal (who is just doing the damn thing right now — nominated at the 2023 Oscars for Best Actor for his performance in Aftersun, starring alongside Saoirse Ronin in the upcoming Foe, cast in Ridley Scott‘s Gladiator 2, and headlining Richard Linklater‘s next project Merrily We Roll Along!) is as good as ever as Harry, a horny, lonely, and of course hot tenant in a fancified, nearly-empty London apartment. He meets Adam, played by the magnificent Scott, a screenwriter struggling to find his footing in his new place and stage of life. Quickly, there is a spark, something there that enunciates the need of each to fill the holes in their life with something the other can offer — both literally and figuratively.
‘All of Us Strangers’ Review: Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott Star in Andrew Haigh’s Newest Film
Interwoven with this complicated yet alluring relationship that is naturally growing between them is the core of the film — Adam’s relationship with his posthumous parents. Scenes of him traveling to his childhood home and speaking to his parents about his life are soon revealed to be a construct of his mind, driving him to reconcile with the things he never said to them when they were alive. Adam’s Mum, played by the sharp and hilarious Claire Foy, offers the first big discussion of the film in which Adam comes out as gay. This truly kicks off the three-pronged thematic element of the film: coping with the grief of losing loved ones, falling intimately in love with someone, and coming out as gay, not only to yourself but to those around you in both the past and the present.
While that can seem like a tall task for a movie that is just 105 minutes to accomplish, I can assure you that the intricacies of such a maze are explored with the utmost care. The script delivers tension-breaking humor yet expertly states the arduous nature of such themes, such life-changing moments in time. Adam brings Harry along on his journey of grief, introducing him to his parents through some incredibly effective visuals and some of the best cross-fades in a movie in the last decade. The hypnotic nature of the score in conjunction with the editing style of the film as a whole is entrancing, allowing the hardships of the movie to take full effect (I cried at least three separate times, so I’m telling you that it all works!).
Of course, All of Us Strangers is easily one of the hottest movies of the year — Mescal gets up to some wildly spicy activities with Scott that you probably couldn’t guess — but that should come as no surprise. What might come as a surprise is that, along with being one of the saddest films of 2023, it’s also one of the best. Scott’s ability to so naturally and so authentically display a vast range of emotions — elation, heartbreak, soul growth — on-screen is worthy of a dark horse Oscar prediction… you heard it here first. There is also a sequence in which Harry and Adam take some ketamine at a nightclub and, well, let’s just say that the scene is a riot. I want to rewatch the movie again right now, if not just to see that scene again.
‘All of Us Strangers’ Is a Hauntingly Truthful Depiction of Time
“I was desperate for you to grow up just so I could get a good night’s sleep” is uttered softly by Foy’s character leading into the final act of the film. I was entirely ill-prepared to hear such a damning sentence on screen this year. As a father of two small children, I felt that line in my bones. Get some sleep, my kids! But that is a sentence that hasn’t left my head since I saw the movie. The idea of time as both a nurturer of love and intimacy and a fiend offering heartbreak and grief — never to be solely one, but always to be a double-edged sword. How to cope with the blade twists of time, when shown as powerfully as Haigh accomplished, will always tear me up inside.
The film ends with a shot that is entirely beautiful yet confounding in some sense, leaving room for the movie to be interpreted however the viewer sees fit, which I believe to be one of its more subtle strengths. A strength that encourages a repeat exploration of the deeply human essence of the film. This movie stirred very real questions and emotions in my life and is still driving me to reckon with the cherished values of communication, honesty, and time. Three ideals that, much like Adam in the film, can change the trajectory of life in one simple moment. After all, life is made up of simple moment after simple moment, no matter the importance, and All of Us Strangers delivers that message without refrain.
'All of Us Strangers' Review'All of Us Strangers' Review
- Andrew Scott delivers an Oscar-worthy performance
- Elixir-like cinematography that leaves you breathless
- Paul Mescal being super hot!!
- Death topics could be triggering for some audiences