All of Us Strangers (2023) | Review

The gay panicking and emotionally repressed 1980s collides with the outwardly proud and inwardly anxious today in this emotional and stirring story.

all of us strangers poster
Source: The Movie Database

Synopsis: Adam, a lonely screenwriter, develops a bond with a neighbour in an almost-empty London tower block while trying to write about his deceased parents. As their relationship develops, Adam seems to encounter his deceased parents in his childhood home living just as they did 30 years ago.

Director: Andrew Haigh
Cast: Adam Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, Jamie Bell

The gay panicking and emotionally repressed 1980s collides with the outwardly proud and inwardly anxious today in this emotional and stirring story.

Everyone here gets time to shine, and shine they do. Andrew Scott puts in a career-best as Adam, a reclusive screenwriter slowly emerging from his shell. His gloomy window staring quickly lands on Harry (Paul Mescal) and the two tentatively start a relationship. Scott plays Adam with a meekness that's charming that serves two purposes:

  1. To show us his growing confidence and openness with Harry
  2. To show us the child he was (and still is) when his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) tragically passed away

Adam and Harry's relationship is simple and gradual which works for All of Us Strangers' stranger side - Adam's repeated visits to speak with his time-froxen parents. Claire Foy and Jamie Bell are tremendously real and deeply engrossing whenever they are on screen. Foy brings the outmoded attitudes that show just how far we've come with making queer people feel welcome today (although the film is careful to highlight things still aren't as good as they should be). A few outdated outbursts raise laughs without stepping on the drama.

MUM: They say it’s a very lonely kind of life.
ADAM: They don’t say that anymore.
MUM: So you’re not lonely?
ADAM: If I am it’s not because I’m gay. Not really.
MUM: Not really? And what about this awful ghastly disease? I’ve seen the gravestones on the adverts. Should I be worried about it?
all of us strangers screencap
Source: The Movie Database

Bell is a well-meaning but closed-off father figure and every chance he has to become vulnerable is golden. Paul Mescal as Harry has a little less interesting ground to cover plot-wise, but is sincere and caring as Harry’s relationship with Adam blossoms. Their scenes in modern London don't have the nostalgic charm of Adam's parents' house (especially those set at Christmas time) but on more than one occasion Adam and Harry simply lie in each others' arms and have those conversations that test a new and exciting romance. The age difference between them also raises some fun comparisons between different coming-out stories, so Adam can receive the support not supplied by his parents.

All of Us Strangers is wonderfully balanced in its emotional depth. The dialogue is incredibly fine, peppering in genuine laughs without reducing the impact of any scene. I've rarely enjoyed a film where I can hear the audience heartily chuckling one moment and then sniffing back a tear the next. Throw in some glowing cinematography and imaginative imagery, and this film ends up a real winner.

And if you have anything left unsaid with your parents - any conflict unresolved, question unasked, or point left unclear - this film is a strong push for you to pick up the phone.