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‘All Of Us Strangers’ review: Heartbreaking but essential viewing

Led by Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, this powerful romance might be 2024's most heartbreaking movie.

5.0 rating

By Anna Smith

Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott in 'All of Us Strangers'

If there is such a thing as a must-see, All Of Us Strangers is it. An exquisite drama from British writer-director Andrew Haigh (Weekend, 45 Years), it stars the dynamite combo of Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal. Scott is Adam, a writer living in a sleek modern block in London. He rarely comes across any neighbours, apart from Harry (Mescal), a charismatic, unpredictable younger man who invites himself into shy Adam’s life.

As the pair grow closer, Adam mysteriously returns to his home in Croydon, where he mysteriously encounters his dead parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), living just as they were in the 1980s. While shaken, Adam is intrigued and takes the opportunity to share more details of his life — chiefly, his sexuality.

Watching Adam hesitantly come out to the parents he lost is deeply moving and involves the most tear-jerking use of The Pet Shop Boys’ work ever committed to cinema.

While using specific details of his own life — including filming in the very house he grew up in — Haigh taps into a universal sense of nostalgia for childhood and departed loved ones.

The film is also a perceptive exploration of changing attitudes towards homosexuality over the past few decades. Adam’s parents are stuck in an era where the Aids crisis was heightening homophobia and increasing concern and confusion in the parents of those who suspected their kids were, as
Bell’s character puts it, “a bit tutti-frutti”.

Bell is tremendous as the macho, moustachioed father whose fashion style might look misleading to the modern queer eye. Meanwhile, a perm- haired Claire Foy puts in a compassionate and darkly comedic performance as the mother who asks well-meaning but ignorant questions about her son’s lifestyle. And Mescal is charming, enigmatic, funny and sexy as Harry, who sparks yet more emotions in the lonely Adam.

All of Us Strangers is loosely based on the 1987 novel Strangers by Taichi Yamada, which was made into a Japanese film called The Discarnates. In both of those cases, the protagonist was straight, and Haigh’s choice to switch to a gay character is a masterstroke that enables him to mine his own past and psychology with affecting results. With a quartet of accomplished stars at its centre, All of Us Strangers is a potent exploration of love and loss that will stay with you long after the credits roll
— as will Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch’s haunting score and the soundtrack, which includes Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’. See it on the big screen.