This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
BY ALEX GILSTON OCTOBER 11, 2023
There is a weight to the unsaid word. The truths about ourselves that we hope one day we can impart upon the people we love the most. In this cruel world, though, sometimes that opportunity can be taken away from us, meaning those unsaid things remain exactly that. Andrew Haigh gives Andrew Scott’s protagonist Adam that chance back in his latest feature, All of Us Strangers.
Adam is a lonely screenwriter confined to his flat. The only time he leaves is to visit his parents, played by Claire Foy and Jamie Bell. He tries to keep himself to himself, that is until Harry (Paul Mescal) comes knocking on his door asking for a drink. There is an instant chemistry between the two as they start to get to know each other. Adam begins to learn more about himself, through the connection he’s making with Harry.
All of Us Strangers operates on a fantastical level, becoming clear quickly that not everything is as it seems. We are seeing Adam have various conversations with his mother and father but they look the same as they did in pictures from when he was a child. Andrew Haigh writes these conversations in hindsight form, from the perspective of a now adult Adam. He is interacting with his parents in a way that he could not when he was younger. These moments are an exceptionally clever and emotional way to explore what his relationship with them could have been like.
Flippant talks with his parents about the kind of career Adam has found for himself quickly turn into deeper conversations that are more personal for him, like his sexuality. At its heart, All of Us Strangers is an exploration of being queer on multiple levels. Adam hasn’t been able to accept himself because he never had the chance to tell his Mum and Dad.
This leads to another interesting concept, where his parents' reactions to his coming out are angled from a 40-year-old context. These moments being grounded in reality is very bold. Haigh could have easily had them be instantly accepting or the opposite. Their reactions leave Adam in a greyer area. It’s important he is trying to imagine exactly how both of them might have reacted, instead of pretending they’d feel differently. This speaks to a specific generation of Gay people who were repressed by the era they were brought up in. Often in the media being older, and gay means that you’ve reached a point of no return. That you are beyond love, recognition, and happiness. This is why All of Us Strangers is successful in its queer representation because it shows that it is never too late for people to experience queer liberation.
Getting the chance to explore his sexuality in the context of his past is then juxtaposed with him getting to explore it with Harry in the present. Harry’s views on being queer are more modern which eventually makes Adam feel more comfortable in himself. The relationship they build is integral to Adam’s queer re-awakening.
All of Us Strangers is like a kaleidoscope, in that we are invited to look through the same metaphorical telescope into the past as Adam, where the dullness of his reality meets an explosion of a writer's traumatic imagination. As the tension rises the lines between the two blur until they are indiscernible from each other. Jamie D. Ramsay achieves this through his fluid cinematography.
The small unit of performances in All of Us Strangers work in perfect tandem with one another. Andrew Scott, Claire Foy, and Jamie Bell mesh together beautifully, and Scott’s chemistry with Paul Mescal is off the charts.
All of Us Strangers will slowly creep up on you. Like its subject matter, there is no timeline on when it might happen for you. Whether you're in floods of tears, or you end up revisiting it in your head and finding more meaning, All of Us Strangers will not leave you unaffected.