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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

All Of Us Strangers *****

Starring: Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, Claire Foy

Director: Andrew Haigh

Country: UK

UK Release: Searchlight Pictures


To say that All Of Us Strangers was highly anticipated is an understatement. The new film from Weekend director Andrew Haigh, this unusually heartfelt time-travel movie (or is it supernatural?) stars two actors who are currently at the peak of their fame and has been received with six BAFTA nominations.

Adam (Scott – Spectre, Sherlock) is a screenwriter living in a newly built high-rise in London, living a lonely life and still grieving for the parents he lost when he was twelve. One of the only other inhabitants is Harry (Mescal – Aftersun, Normal People) who knocks at his door one night, asking for company. Adam turns him away, but the following day he travels to revisit his old family home to discover that his dead parents are still living there, unaged and seemingly unchanged by the decades that have passed. Overjoyed by this spectral reunion, Adam reintroduces himself to Harry and they begin a relationship, but the mysteries of why his parents are there and exactly who Harry is plague the troubled writer until he begins to feel that he is losing his grasp on reality.

Deeply atmospheric, the loneliness of life in London is central to this story, with the distant skyline omnipresent during scenes in their quiet flats in this deserted building. Harry often comments about how painfully quiet it is, “And they seal the windows shut so we can’t jump to our deaths.” It’s this isolation that underpins everything in this film, which explores the deep psychological problems that can affect gay men.

In a beautifully written scene, Adam comes out to his mother. Her attitudes are exactly as they would have been in the 1980s (“What about the disease with the tombstone I’ve seen on TV?”), but when she responds that being gay is a lonely life, he counters “It’s not like that anymore”. But the reality is that Adam – like many gay men – is faced by numerous other mental health problems that come from a childhood being told that that their truth is distasteful. Conversations about the word “queer” sit alongside talk of the consequences of growing up during the AIDS pandemic. We see the consequences of homophobia, experiences of bullying and the lingering feeling of being a pariah masked by a veneer of pride. And all of this is played out in a truly remarkable performance from Andrew Scott, who says all the right things to give the impression of a well-adjusted gay man in his forties, but whose eyes give away the sad truth behind that.

Paul Mescal is solid as the hunky younger man – there’s almost twenty years between the actors – while Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott, Fantastic Four) has created a nuanced role in Adam’s father. Claire Foy (The Crown, Women Talking) gives a stunning performance too, with his mother sensitive, glamorous and deeply flawed, commanding the screen with grace and poise. But within all the nuance coming from the actors, there’s also the deeply personal touch from Haigh, who has taken a screenplay adapted from Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel Strangers and applied it so firmly to his own life that the family scenes were actually shot in his own childhood home.

The plot is ambiguous and the question mark of what is happening and why never really needs to be answered. There are times it is maddeningly cryptic, but others when its beating heart will leave you broken in tears. This is the kind of film that raises more questions than it answers, but it does this with a keen eye on depicting the lived experience of a generation of gay men. This might be a ghostly story with mysterious characters, but the entire narrative is an overwhelming and deeply moving metaphor. And it’s absolutely brilliant as a result.

Restrained, nuanced and deeply affecting, this is one of the very best LGBT+ movies - or any movies for that matter - released in the last decade. This is a shattering story and in fact, I would wager, a truly perfect film.

UK Release: Out now in cinemas, released by Searchlight Pictures


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