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All Of Us Strangers movie review: Andrew Scott is sublime in this tender ghost story

Mar 08, 2024 01:37 PM IST

All Of Us Strangers movie review: Andrew Haigh examines love, family and past trauma with lyrical intensity; aided with a superb performance from Andrew Scott.

All Of Us Strangers movie review: How is the world different for queer people? Ask any gay man about their relationship with their parents and there will no easy way out. The wobbly, transient space for queer relationships out in the open, to be accepted by our dear ones, is still inaccessible to many. There's coming out and there's no going back from there. A gay man might just be different because he wasn't heard long enough, and so he has forgot what it feels like to be heard, or even seen for what they are. These are some questions that breath life into the new drama All Of Us Strangers. (Also read: The Zone of Interest movie review: Jonathan Glazer's chilling study of human complicity is an immediate masterpiece)

All Of Us Strangers movie review: Andrew Scott in a still from the film.

A tricky tightrope of balance threatens to disrupt the beauty of Andrew Haigh's fifth feature: a film that refuses to be slotted into the frenzy of a genre. It is a ghost story embedded in a love story. In the hands of a lesser director, the thrill of the former would have overshadowed the vitality of the latter, but the British writer-director is somehow able to bring these two elements together with feather-weight skill and intensity. The more you think about it, the more All Of Us Strangers expands. You know immediately that this is a story that comes from someplace deep and personal.

A masterful adaptation

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Haigh loosely adapts the 1987 novel Strangers by Taichi Yamada, which was earlier made into a Japanese film called The Discarnates. Here, the focus rests on Adam (Andrew Scott), a lonely gay man in his forties, who never got to come out to his parents. They had died in a car crash when he was just 11. Yet, one fine evening, Adam finds himself tracing back to the familiar corners of the suburbs, where he finds them again (played by Claire Foy and Jamie Bell). Both mum and dad are living in the small house as it is. Time has stopped for them, they still reside somewhere in the 1980s.

The premise

Back in his solitary London building, a surprising connection blossoms up with the only person living there- the much younger and handsome Harry (Paul Mescal). At first, Adam doesn't want any sort of connection with him, but Harry charms his way into his apartment, and the two men share the softest of kisses, guiding each other along the way. Adam finds out that Harry is lonely too, having cut off connection with his family and living mostly by himself.

Adam is drawn repeatedly back to his parents house, even as his relationship with Harry takes shape along the way. In this journey that extends between the past and the present, Andrew Scott's presence acts as an anchor, grounding the circles around dreams and memories, reality and fantasy. Adam's trauma cuts deep, almost debilitating him to care less about himself. Haigh's deeply compassionate and tender direction in the scenes with Harry and his parents provide him space to finally come out to them and talk about his feelings. Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch's lovely score undercuts many of these expressions of love and longing.

A superb cast

It all works largely because of the quartet of actors. Haigh assembles a triumphant cast to bring this wrenching story alive. Jamie Bell and Claire Foy are terrific together: a late scene by the Christmas tree is unforgettable in the way Foy masks complicated feelings through the humming of 'Always on my Mind'. As Harry, Paul Mescal is in scene-stealing form, rising to the occasion whenever Jamie Ramsay's tender camerawork inches towards his face. Yet so much of All Of Us Strangers works because of Andrew Scott- and the actor outdoes himself in a fiercely intelligent and receptive performance. How is he not locked in for a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars is beyond me.

The impossible begins to feel miraculously unique and necessary in the way All of Us Strangers weaves reality with the ghost story. Yes, there's predicament, but there's great skill with which Haigh asks the tough questions, eager to bridge the generational gap between parents and children. To love; to give in to all its questions and joys and agonies is perhaps the most vital sort of life force. Haigh's brave and beautiful ghost story rests on that question, and says that every inch of that emotion is worth the effort and pain.

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