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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

"All of Us Strangers:" and the Complexities of Being Human

Updated: Feb 14

If you keep up with the world of indie film, there's a good chance you've heard of the new British film, All of Us Strangers, directed by Andrew Haigh. It premiered at the Telluride Festival in August and has gone through an extremely limited release in both the United States and the United Kingdom. But if you do manage to hunt down a screening of this elusive film, you'll be met with a heartfelt queer story filled with emotion that masterfully blends the familiar with the other-worldly.

I first saw the trailer for All of Us Strangers, I remember rolling my eyes and thinking "great, another film about a queer couple where one is conflicted with their sexuality because of their upbringing, how predictable." That's a movie I've seen a thousand times over. But I was sorely mistaken because All of Us Strangers is a lot more unconventional than I ever could've expected. The story follows depressed, lonely screenwriter, Adam who gets into a relationship with his neighbor, Harry, which sounds mundane enough, until you see that Adam routinely has visions of himself and his deceased parents, whom he speaks with frequently throughout the film. We learn throughout the runtime that Adam was bullied for his sexuality when he was young, and never felt comfortable coming out to his parents despite the fact that they always seemed supportive of him. Unfortunately, Adam's father and mother were both killed in a car accident before he could ever express who he truly was to them. The film follows the progression of both Adam and Harry's relationship as well as Adam's continued visits to his parents in his mind. These two elements create a beautiful tale of both love and grief.

All of Us Strangers is not a particularly loud or exciting film. Its strength is derived from its sincerity and subtlety. The story is loosely based off a Japanese novel called Strangers from 1987 by Taichi Yamada. But despite the concrete roots in fiction, All of Us Strangers feels oddly biographical when you learn more about the director, Andrew Haigh. Haigh himself is an openly gay man, and like Adam, he wrote the script for the film in the midst of an intensely lonely time in his life, namely the first wave of Covid. It's refreshing to see a queer film where the main theme is not oppression or pain, they're present, but at its core, this is a film about being human and the emotions that come with it.

While the editing, cinematography, music, and directing are solid, the real standout in All of Us Strangers are the performances. It has an extremely small cast, consisting of only four people, Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, and Jamie Bell, who all play their roles with such grace and humanity. As an Irish person, it's amazing to see a film lead by two Irish actors get so much praise. And although this is a film from the UK, and was directed by a British person, I can't help but feel like this is an intensely Irish movie, and it's not just because of the actors...

If you're Irish, you'll know that one of the most prominent aspects of the culture is being stoic. Never letting your emotions get to you, or more colloquially: "be a man." If you're feeling sad, drown your sorrows in whiskey, and if you happen to jump off a bridge, you're seen as a coward. This was brilliantly illustrated in the 2022 film, The Banshees of Inisherin by Martin McDonagh. All of Us Strangers shows a much softer side of "being a man," emotion, gentleness, loneliness, love, etc.

A scene that particularly stands out is when Adam comes out to his mother at the kitchen table during one of his memory trips. Her reaction is mixed and she has a lot of questions. She asks if people are still mean to him in the future, if he's able to get married and have kids, if he'll end up dying of disease. Her reaction is very complicated but you can tell it is one of love and concern. It's a reminder to viewers that being queer was not always a cakewalk, and still isn't for a lot of people. His mother is under the assumption that a gay life is a lonely one, and she asks him if that's the case. He hesitates because he clearly is a very lonely person, but he insists that's not the case because the fact that he's lonely has nothing to do with him being gay. It's a very human scene, and the fact that it takes place so casually over a cup of tea makes the film feel so much more grounded and humble. It's also hard not to get choked up at the scene where Adam says the same thing to his father, and explains all the hardships he went through growing up, which ends with them both in tears. These are all attempts to relive his childhood the way he would have wanted, with both of his parents alive, knowing who he truly was.

All of Us Strangers on the surface, is a queer love story, but if you look deeper you'll find a film about a man's battle to feel comfortable with himself, and looking towards the past and present to do this. It's remarkable about how a film about loneliness can make you feel so much less alone.

Without risking the chance of any spoilers, All of Us Strangers is a film jam packed with love, grief, and self discovery that is sure to bring a tear to your eye no matter who you are or where you come from.

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