All of Us Strangers (2023)
Director: Andrew Haigh
Screenwriter: Andrew Haigh
Starring: Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, Jamie Bell
The newest queer movie to have turned the internet upside down has finally been released in the UK, leaving those who see it in floods of tears at screenings around the country. The question is: do tears equate to quality?
All of Us Strangers follows Andrew Scott’s Adam as he attempts to write a screenplay about his parents (Claire Foy, Jamie Bell), drawing him to his childhood home where his parents appear to be living just as they were on the day they died 30 years ago. All the while, Adam begins a relationship with his mysterious neighbour Harry (Paul Mescal, Aftersun).
Andrew Haigh opens by showing us Andrew Scott’s protagonist as he goes about his life; laying on the couch all day, attempting to write a screenplay about his parents, and eating last night’s leftovers. He is completely debilitated by the past and his inability to move on from it. Living in his new block, Adam is surrounded by the vast emptiness of his apartment building, which no one else has moved into. Other than Paul Mescal’s Harry, that is. The pair meet at Adam’s door after spotting each other during a fire drill. Harry has a whiskey bottle in hand and is reeking of desperation. Mescal sways brilliantly between confident and vulnerable, with a genuine charm to him that he plays subtly enough to allow us to see through his plan to get into the apartment. Just as we are somewhat charmed by him, it is clear that Scott’s character is too, hiding smiles here and there whilst being a little intimidated. In a final attempt at gaining company, Harry quotes lyrics to “The Power of Love” he heard through Adam’s walls, claiming “There’s vampires at my door.”
The opening lines to Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “The Power of Love” reverberate throughout the film. “I’ll protect you from the hooded claw. Keep the vampires from your door.” The song is essentially the anthem of this story, with the opening lyrics used to evoke love in all of its forms, for better and for worse. Though the song is referenced in this introductory scene to signify the lack of love within Harry’s life and the loneliness that awaits him at home, the lyrics and what they can signify constantly evolve as the film goes on. This illustrates the excellence behind Haigh’s writing and directing. Although this film’s visual language can get a little overbearing at points, his use of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood song provides little doubt so far as his talent goes. Using the song early on in the film creates a motif that permeates, constantly changing all the while providing an emotional weight to much of the tale. It’s a stroke of brilliance on Haigh’s part.
Equally, the writer-director takes some fairly difficult material – with its boundary-defying, time-hopping story of love – and makes it easily digestible through its close study of its four characters: Adam, Harry, and Adam’s parents. The close attention paid to the smallest, intimate details of the characters’ relationships not only draws us in on an emotional level, but it also allows us to focus on these characters rather than getting bogged down in any plot detail.
As for those who bring Haigh’s screenplay to life, the performances are simply superb. Particularly, the chemistry between Andrew Scott and his characters’ parents is beautiful, with all three capturing the complicated relationship that can exist between a child and those who raised them; that type of unconditional love that can remain almost unspoken within a family, and all of the repressed emotion and trauma that comes with it. Paul Mescal, even more impressively, continues to prove why he is the greatest actor working today. Never overstepping the spotlight of his co-stars, Mescal takes his handful of moments and brings the house down with the faintest of looks or the most heartbreaking of line deliveries, providing exactly what is needed of his character and then some.
Although each of these individual elements are excellent in their own right, it is when they work in tandem with one another that All of Us Strangers truly exceeds expectations; the music, direction, writing, and acting all elevate each other to heights that many other movies could only dream of. In the process, All of Us Strangers crafts a beautiful story of love, grief, loneliness, and the past, which ensures there isn’t a dry eye in the house come the credits.
With his latest release, Andrew Haigh brings us a devastating new love story that overwhelms with emotion from start to finish and will stick with you for days. Although the acting and directing are excellent, it is the story that many will find themselves fixating on. Bring tissues.