‘All of Us Strangers’ review: A piercing study of the sheer force of love


The days and nights are lonely and peculiar in Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers. The film dangles the tantalising possibility of re-connecting with long-departed souls, but without the fright or eeriness that such experiences might entail.

The reclusive gay screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott) is one of two residents in a London high-rise building. The financial powerhouse is emptied of stimuli or meaning for Adam, who lost his parents when he was 12.

When Adam begins to meet the ghosts of his parents (Jamie Bell and Claire Foy), it feels like the most natural thing. In the encounters with his parents, who are no older than he is, Adam gets the opportunity that many of wish we had – to seek closure with those who are no longer with us, to tell them that we love them, or to chide them about the things they should have said or done but didn’t. In the present, Adam warms to his only neighbour Harry (Paul Mescal), embarking on a relationship that is both sexually and emotionally intimate.

All of Us Strangers has been loosely adapted from Taichi Yamada’s Japanese novel Strangers. By making his protagonist a gay man, Andrew Haigh explores the concerns of a community that has made tremendous progress since Adam’s early, tentative years, as he notes, but faces the ageless predicament of being alone in an often bewildering urban setting.

Jamie D Ramsay’s tight framing and mood lighting instantly conjure up the visible borders of Adam’s world. With minimal resources, a handful of characters and a tightly controlled narrative approach, Andrew Haigh mines more emotional resonance than the average sweeping melodrama. The film abounds in symbols for Adam’s isolation, none more powerful than the apartment block that looms large over the rest of London.

The conversations between Adam and his parents, especially his mother, are deeply poignant. Adam’s relationship with Harry is laced with possibility as well as melancholy. Andrew Scott’s terrific, heart-tugging performance is the centrepiece of a beautifully enacted drama in which love transcends time, and death itself.

All of Us Strangers (2023).

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