Film Reviews
Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Seldom has a film so elegantly combined eerie mystery with awkward love merging into passionate embrace, plus an immersion into a childhood through reentering one’s parents’ lives. That’s the deft high wire act writer/director Andrew Haigh pulls off in “All of Us Strangers.” Based on Taichi Yamada’s 1957 novel “Strangers,” the film explores important relationships amidst perplexing memories.

In a fluid time scape, a curious present merges with a charged past. Living in an all but empty London apartment high-rise, Adam awkwardly crosses paths with, later meets, avoids, and then becomes romantically involved with Harry, who resides in the same building. In his forties, gay, a screenwriter, Adam struggles with issues concerning his parents, particularly his mother. As he contemplates his life, effortlessly traveling back and forth to his childhood home, Adam confronts and interacts with his parents in their 1980s world, fulfilling a desire many of us harbor, with director Haigh artfully inviting fulfilling, vicarious viewer involvement.

As he noted for the Telluride Film Festival where I first saw the film, the narrative triggered “lots of personal feelings,” Haigh hoping, as he said, it “makes you feel like it’s your story as well.” The many surprises in “All of Us Strangers” prohibits any further plot summary, but it gives nothing away to add a note about locations, all of which contribute a strong, distinctive presence. Even Haigh felt the pull, shooting in his own childhood home outside Croydon, South London, a warn environment contrasting with the cold, impersonal high rise that intensifies isolation and detachment, both a metaphor and an effective staging site. An important club scene used the “iconic queer London institution: the Vauxhall Tavern,” according to press notes.

Inhabiting these space, the actors strike just the right level of nostalgia, reserve, pain, or release. As Adam, Andrew Scott says he felt being gay himself helped him connect with the hope for a family to “stay with you when you tell them who you are.” As Harry, Paul Mescal complements Adam’s restraint, hesitancy, and ecstatic yielding to emotional connection. Claire Foy and Jamie Bell as Adam’s parents provide a strong 1980s ambiance. “All of Us Strangers” presents Adam’s journey, but it is one that resonates well beyond the central characters, impacting Haigh, the actors, and, in my experience, its viewers as well. Check listings.

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