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All of Us Strangers
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir-scr Andrew Haigh
prd Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Sarah Harvey
with Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, Jamie Bell, Carter John Grout, Ami Tredrea, Cameron Ashplant, Lincoln R Beckett, Jack Cronin, Oliver Franks, Hussein Kutsi, Guy Robbins
release US 22.Dec.23,
23/UK Searchlight 1h45
Is it streaming?
Like Weekend's more challenging big brother, this contained British drama from Andrew Haigh uses incisive storytelling to explore connections in a fractured society. He shoots it in his usual bracingly naturalistic style, this time augmenting the story with a surreal sensibility that draws on the creative process itself. And it's beautifully played by a focussed, invested cast. This is a gently involving, darkly personal film that carries a massive emotional wallop.
In a new apartment block, Adam (Scott) can only see one other occupied flat. And one night Harry (Mescal) knocks on his door to say hello. But Adam is unnerved by Harry's drunken state, and prefers to remain alone as he works on an autobiographical screenplay. Writing this spurs him to revisit his childhood home in the suburbs, where he finds his parents (Foy and Bell) are the same age as when they died. Adam was 11 then, and he takes this chance to reveal who he has become, and who he always has been.
Deceptively simple, the plot also includes a gorgeously sweet romance between Adam and Harry, who connect over shared thoughts and feelings. Then in his conversations with his parents, Adam updates them on his life, which also includes coming out and informing them on how things have changed for gay people since the 1980s. Each conversation is infused with real-life humour that reveals the inner workings of the characters. And it's clear that, as Adam's dreams and flights of fancy become involved, there are more revelations to come.
Performances are utterly transparent across the board, with an especially demanding role for Scott as man looking into his past and the expectations he has for himself. This is an odyssey of discovery for him, and Scott plays the soul-searching without any melodrama. And there's dry humour in each conversation. His chemistry with the superbly vulnerable Mescal is charged and very sexy. And his scenes with Foy and Bell are tinged with big feelings, played beautifully in moments of raw honesty.
Even if Adam is now older than his mum and dad were, they still have a fascinating parent-child dynamic that's both thoughtful and comical. Haigh has infused this story with elements from his own life that resonate powerfully with the viewer, creating a huge wave of emotion. The film carries a message to take what we've learned and keep moving forward, connecting with people wherever possible. And it's a staggering reminder of the power of love.
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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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