‘All of Us Strangers’ Review: A Masterpiece in its Study of the Need for Human Understanding

Kevin Taft reviews All of Us Strangers, director Andrew Haigh's brilliant and honest exploration of human relationships.
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Writer/director Andrew Haigh, celebrated for his portrayal of emotionally resonant, relatable characters, delivers yet another honest exploration of human relationships in All of Us Strangers based loosely on the novel “Strangers” by Taichi Yamada.

The film delicately unfolds as a poetic and fantastical narrative, shedding light on a man’s struggle with repression that stems from the loss of his parents during childhood, and is set against the backdrop of a less-than-tolerant era for those identifying as gay.

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The story introduces us to Adam (a brilliant Andrew Scott), a screenwriter approaching middle age who leads a quiet and solitary existence in his high-rise London apartment. The narrative takes an unexpected turn when a fire alarm disrupts his routine, leading to a chance encounter with Harry (Normal People’s Paul Mescal), initiating a complex dance of connection and solitude.

As Adam dives into a script he’s writing, he embarks on a journey back to his childhood home, where he has an inexplicable reunion with his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), frozen in time since their tragic demise on Christmas Eve.

The newfound joy in Adam’s reconnection with his mom and dad parallels his emotional and intimate relationship with Harry, unraveling layers of growth and self-discovery that have been stifled for decades. However, the narrative takes an upsetting turn when Adam confronts his mother with the truth of his sexuality, leading to an exploration of familial misunderstandings and societal biases of the ’80s.

At the heart of Haigh’s narrative is the dialogue between Adam and his parents, exposing the raw realities of a past rife with homophobia and the ensuing trauma. The script masterfully dives into the struggle of a gay man forced to conceal their true self, delivering conversations that resonate with painful authenticity.

Adam’s relationship with Harry becomes a canvas illustrating the enduring impact of past experiences on current connections. Through the lens of hopelessness and hesitation, the film portrays how Harry becomes a gentle catalyst, coaxing Adam out of his shell.

Despite the challenging nature of these conversations, Haigh’s script and direction remain authentic, devoid of any false notes. The stellar performances by Scott, Mescal, Bell, and Foy elevate the film to a masterclass of acting.

Haigh’s script masterfully unfolds, offering diverse experiences for different viewers. For those who came of age in the ’80s, the film resonates with the challenges of the era, from the AIDS crisis to the necessity of remaining closeted. Younger audiences will identify with Harry, who gains insight into the hardships faced by those in less forgiving times.

However, All of Us Strangers transcends its LGBTQ+ narrative, inviting audiences to appreciate the universal theme of reconnecting with one’s roots. The film becomes a powerful exploration of confronting parental shortcomings and learning to understand the strangers they had always been.

The film’s enigmatic elements—the communion with deceased parents, Harry’s curious role, and the surreal high-rise dwelling—add a layer of mystique, leaving audiences unsure of what is real and what isn’t.

Regardless, the script’s weight lies in its authentic portrayal of tangible people navigating genuine and complex realities. Haigh fearlessly addresses men’s sexuality, imbuing scenes of sex with both eroticism and pragmatism.

All of Us Strangers asks us to look beyond what we think we know of people to find their truth. It is a masterpiece of examining human connections, both real and lost. His words are a true reflection of the world around us, relatable to everyone as they deal with commonalities, even when it feels specific because we are all truly strangers until we let each other in.

All of Us Strangers opens in limited release on December 22, 2023, and expands nationwide on January 26, 2024.

Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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