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All of Us Strangers

Updated: Jan 22

Andrew Haigh's searing take on loneliness is profoundly vulnerable



The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many people’s solitude and loneliness, not only due to quarantining measure, but also by forcing many to pause and take stock of their lives. As such, many began to have conversations with themselves, whether to realizing their mental and emotional states or to discovering repressed identities. As such, the adaptation of Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel “Strangers” could not have come at a better time.

All of Us Strangers (2023) is the story of recluse screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott), who lives in a new but scarcely populated London apartment. There, he bumps into and a starts a romance with fellow tenant Harry (Paul Mescal). Alongside this introspection, Adam goes back to his childhood home in the London suburbs where he finds his deceased mother (Claire Foy) and father (Jamie Bell), his same age, greeting him.

All of Us Strangers is adapted and directed by Andrew Haigh, who takes creative license to insert a queer lens. Haigh retains the magical realistic and dreamlike prose with colorful lighting techniques and woozy editing choices. These stylistic technical choices allows viewers to drench themselves in Adam’s emotional state and unquestioningly delve into the magical realist elements of the narrative. This enhances the reading of Yamada’s story, as the visual style and general lack of verbosity brings about the patient reflection for the onscreen characters as well as viewers.

Haigh has been trying to break queer stereotypes, by bringing a normalization to romances in projects such as Weekend (2011) and Looking (2016). With All of Us Strangers, Haigh takes not only a view into queerness and modern solitude, but also delivers his most vulnerable and deeply personal film. One need not only know that Adam’s family home was Haigh’s as well, or that he is queer himself, rather one can feel the specificity of such emotional and gentle moments from a trip to the mall to the decorating of a Christmas tree, that something emotionally authentic is being displayed.

 All of Us Strangers is a four-hander, with the narrative constructed much like a play. Haigh gives scenes and sequences space to breathe, which gives his actors time to chew the scenery and take their time with key dramatic moments. Each performer shines in individual scenes, but they also work seamlessly as a team, generously supporting the journey of the protagonist and not seeking to steal the spotlight. Scott delivers a transporting performance that finally gives the Irish actor the richness and complexity he had been demanding since Sherlock (). Scott commands every second on screen, perfectly controlling the tempo of a streaming of a tear or the failed suppression of a smile. The entire ensemble proves to be one of the strongest and most irresistible of the past year.

 

In the end, All of Us Strangers is a beautifully drawn film, the emotional beats and analysis of loneliness prove profound and deeply moving. There are certain patterns in the queer romance of the film that fall into cliché-ridden territory and trauma porn, but the power of the gentle directing and completely enveloping performances help transmit the devastating relatability of the internal conversations and battles we all have within ourselves. Frustratingly, I did not see All of Us Strangers before the deadline for submitting my top films of 2023, were that not the case, you can rest assured it would have garnered an honored entry.

9.1/10

About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website through a film-buff phase in high-school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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