Movies like this are rare. All of Us Strangers is the new romantic fantasy film starring Andrew Scott as Adam. He has a chance encounter with a neighbor, Harry (Paul Mescal), and as their romantic relationship builds, Adam faces his relationship with his parents. A lot is going on in this story that I won’t get into because I did not know what to expect when it began. But this is one of the most emotionally profound, moving films of 2023. It will catch you off-guard and blow you away with its raw emotions.
The film starts out with a vintage look and soon goes into an interesting meet-cute between our two leads. Harry sees Adam looking at him through his apartment window and visits Adam. Harry seems creepy, but as they see each other more, a connection forms. The lighting is exquisite, crafting part of a deliberately paced poem about love, loss, and the scars that define us. While it begins as a romance drama, All of Us Strangers goes down paths that you would never expect. Once you realize what’s going on, you are in for a deeply impactful ride that will leave you speechless.
Early on, Adam reconnects with his parents. Soon after, the scene takes on a new heartbreaking context. From there, Adam shares many scenes with each of his parents. He comes out to his mother as a gay man. The way this scene is written is perfect. While some writers handle these issues by having characters be either very supportive or explicitly homophobic, writer/director Andrew Haigh takes things in a different direction. Her response is not completely appropriate, but she comes from a good place. She is not anti-gay, but she is a generation behind. The nuance that All of Us Strangers has when approaching these themes is fantastic.
As the film progresses, you slowly learn more about these characters. The people in this movie talk slowly. With each pause they take, you see them trying to formulate their next sentence. Haigh crafts these scenes perfectly. Many scenes feel very human, with the dialogue directed to perfection. There are moments where Haigh’s shot choices and camera movements are excellent. There are moments where Haigh leaves the camera on the actors, not moving it very much and allowing the performances to speak for themselves. Each moment is perfect for getting you into the headspace of our protagonist.
You really feel the history in Adam’s relationship with his parents. The unresolved pain, the mistakes made, the delusions Adam has created, and the regret the parents have that they were unable to be with him. It’s thematically rich with beautiful ideas throughout. Each scene is structured carefully to create a resounding cinematic experience unlike any other. It’s a deeply emotional journey that takes you on a ride that will have you look inward, assessing your relationship with your parents. Towards the end of All of Us Strangers, as Adam goes to a restaurant with his mother and father, we have a scene that’s so devastating that I couldn’t help but cry.
As for the romance, it is wonderfully written. They share a brief emotional connection before jumping into a physical one. Although the film may have benefitted from more emotions before the first love scene, the later dialogue is effective. You get a sense of who these people are, and although we don’t learn too much about Harry, Mescal’s performance allows him to feel lived in. Jamie Bell and Claire Foy offer astounding performances as Adam’s parents, but the real draw here is Scott. He is nothing short of perfect in an emotionally taxing role that requires a lot of complexity from an actor. Scott is up for the task, giving a wonderful lead performance.
There is so much to appreciate about All of Us Strangers. This is a mature exploration of how one event from our past can affect us to the present. It’s about how trauma shapes us into who we are, informing our beliefs, our fears, and our relationships. Adam’s relationship with Harry is immediately complex because Adam grew up not knowing what love really felt like. At the same time, Adam feels a need to cling to his childhood, grabbing onto the good memories and not wanting to let go. Although this is one of the best LGBTQ+ love stories put to screen in 2023, this movie has the power to resonate with people who don’t identify as queer. There are universal themes present that can grab you and give you the wake-up call you didn’t know you needed.
Haigh is a master of his craft, and All of Us Strangers is a must-see masterpiece of storytelling. It shook me to my core, and I hope it does the same for all of you strangers.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 9 equates to “Excellent.” Entertainment that reaches this level is at the top of its type. The gold standard that every creator aims to reach.
Disclosure: ComingSoon attended the New York Film Festival for our All of Us Strangers review.