The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

“All of Us Strangers:” An Emotionally Rich Ghost Story

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal shine in one of 2023’s finest films.
Photo Courtesy / YouTube SearchlightPictures

The latest from writer/director Andrew Haigh, “All of Us Strangers,” was released to theaters on Dec. 22, 2023. The film was a late addition to the awards circuit, where it has picked up an admirable six nominations at the upcoming BAFTA awards and received a Golden Globe nomination for Andrew Scott’s performance. 

Audiences see this film through the eyes of lonely screenwriter Adam, who is one of two tenants in a brand new London apartment complex. The inspiration for his latest script is his relationship – or lack thereof – with his long deceased parents. While returning to his hometown one day, he sees what appears to be his father.

He follows the man all the way to his childhood home where he begins to interact with his parents as if they were alive. When he returns back to his apartment later that night, a relationship with the other lone resident of the building begins to kindle. Adam must now manage this newfound love while also going through 30 years of lost time with his parents.

Discussions of this film begin and end with talk of the excellent and limited cast. Fresh off his first Oscar recognition for his role in “Aftersun,” Paul Mescal delivers a complex and nuanced performance as Adam’s lover/neighbor Harry. Much of this character’s life before the film is a complete mystery, but Mescal still manages to give so much life to a role that is thankless alongside the behemoth that is the central performance. As Adam’s parents, Claire Foy and Jamie Bell also serve as phenomenal scene partners, specifically Foy who gets the most difficult scenes and rises to the occasion.

Putting the excellent supporting cast aside, Scott is exceptional as Adam. Throughout the course of the runtime, Scott switches from child-like joy to a crippling panic attack within minutes multiple times and makes it compelling. He completely personifies the film’s main themes of loneliness and grief in this all encompassing and fearless lead performance. In addition, his chemistry with Mescal is magnetic and organic.

The dialogue between them in the beginning of their relationship is painfully cringey but in the most realistic way possible. As the characters grow, this awkwardness eventually blossoms into a deep connection between the two that is made even better through the bond the two actors clearly have. Many of these praises can also be sung for Haigh’s brilliant script.

When asked about the film, Scott told British GQ its effectiveness lies within its broad appeal: 

“Whether that’s young queer audiences, or whether people who have lost parents or people who just feel lonely or people who just appreciate how fragile and tender life is and how short a time we’re here for,” Scott said. Since Haigh’s script can reach anyone, he achieves a deep level of intimacy with any viewer and creates a vulnerable setting where all emotions are welcome. 

The film approaches many complex questions and feelings in an almost surreal and dreamlike way as Adam imagines what certain difficult conversations would be like with his parents, most notably when he comes out as gay to his mother. He is met with a cold and puzzled response that he retaliates with anger and disdain. This upsetting confrontation is then reconciled with a beautiful moment between Adam and his father where everything is right again.

From this scene: the concept of letting go begins to become more powerful and as Adam’s arc is completed, this is where the film’s fatal flaw emerges. The ending is left up to the interpretation of the viewer but I found it to be deeply pessimistic and a betrayal of the emotional climax achieved earlier. Even though I had a very big issue with the ending, I couldn’t help but shed a tear as the credits rolled.

What Andrew Haigh achieves in “All of Us Strangers” should be seen by everyone. Thanks to a perfect cast, near flawless script and killer soundtrack to boot, Haigh’s latest is one of the must see films of last year.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

We love comments and feedback, but we ask that you please be respectful in your responses.
All The Torch Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *