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MOVIES: LFF 2023 - All Of Us Are Strangers - Review

Andrew Haigh’s All Of Us Are Strangers is a devastating watch. Uniquely powerful and heartbreaking in its story it emerges as one of the most beautiful, tender movies of 2023 – or 2024 when it’s released in the UK – and rarely I have seen a screening of two hundred people moved completely to tears by the end. It was my first film at this year’s London Film Festival – and what a way to start; the director following up his understated and underrated Lean on Pete with a film that pairs up Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal.

The film opens in an apartment building where there is nobody present save for two lonely men: screenwriter Adam and the younger neighbour, Harry; played by Scott and Mescal respectively. Adam sees Harry outside of his room and then again Harry opens the door and asks to be let in, clearly drunk and in need of comfort: and what follows is best left unsaid until you watch the film because to even glance at the summary would give it away. It’s a hard film to write a review for without spoiling in fact; so intricately is its design that even the subtitles introducing some of the characters gave the game up a little too early: but what a game it is. All Of Us Are Strangers finds a way to keep you guessing from start to finish about what its endgame is: is it a film about loneliness? love? The struggle of coming out to your parents later in life? The struggle of not coming out earlier? It is all of these and none of these at the same time: a puzzle box of an enigma wrapped within a mystery.

There’s a great commentary about how there’s no life outside of London; there’s nothing for Adam in the suburbs and whilst all his friends have left him to settle down and have kids and have their grandparents look after them; why would he move out there? He’s queer – London is one of the most inclusive places in the world. It’s the beating heart of the country and the nightlife comes alive in All Of Us Are Strangers, the clubbing scenes allow for Adam and Harry to notch up their relationship freed from the backwards views of Adam’s parents; but cracks are beginning to appear in the fairytale a Adam’s walls start to break down.

Adam’s life is the main instigator for the plot as we see him struggle with neglecting his duties as a writer; listening to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love and reflecting on his parents – which leads him to seek them out, unaged – at his childhood home in the London suburbs near Croydon. They’re proud of him growing up as a writer: and Jamie Bell and Claire Foy give it their all. Bell’s performance is fantastic but it’s the scenes with Foy and Scott together that broke my heart; a shared moment around the Christmas table set to Always on My Mind by the Pet Shop Boys may be the best use of that film.

The soundtrack illustrates this as does the breaking of Adam’s mental state – the 80s soundtrack is one of the best Andrew Haigh could have chosen for film like this. It’s a real testament to Foy and Bell’s performance that there’s a scene where a very adult Adam asks to get in the bed with them as he’s too afraid and they oblige isn’t played as completely silly – but there are perhaps, lingering questions: the final scene is perhaps the only thing that holds me back from thinking “yes, this is perfect” – a little too familiar, maybe? But nonetheless equally profound and important storytelling. If there ever wasn’t a doubt that Andrew Scott isn’t one of the best actors currently working – All Of Us Are Strangers sets out to prove you all wrong. It does lead to another drawback: you don't quite buy this as not a Scott or Mescal performance; especially Mescal - he's very much obviously himself - which sets the film back ever so slightly - when perhaps character actors would've maybe worked better - but there's a lot of good material here, and Mescal's casting almost suits the film's fairy-tale narrative after all.

All of Us Are Strangers is scheduled to be released by Searchlight Pictures in the United States on 22 December 2023 and in the United Kingdom on 26 January 2024.

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