All of Us Strangers review: Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott’s gay romance will leave you breathless
In All of Us Strangers, Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy and Jamie Bell offer a heart-wrenching ensemble performance – here’s our review.
Filmmaker Andrew Haigh has a track record when it comes to sensual and subversive queer love stories. From the 2011 film Weekend to HBO series Looking, Haigh has established himself as a director who explores complex lives of contemporary gay men with sensitivity and nuance.
Haigh’s consistent themes of self-love, lifelong yearning, sexual exploration and intricately woven webs of childhood trauma come together in his latest feature, based on Taichi Yamada’s award-winning fantasy ghost novel, Strangers.
Enter Adam (Scott), a screenwriter in his late 40s, living the monotony of daily life in a high-rise London tower block who – initially reluctantly – strikes up a relationship with his lonely neighbour, Harry (Mescal).
But all is not as it seems. Adam regularly visits his childhood home, which we soon discover remains haunted by the apparitions of his late parents (frozen in time) who died when he was only 12.
Scott’s performance leaves you breathless as he straddles the divide between his inner pre-teen, stuck in the 1980s and longing for more time with his parents, and the man he is today: bitter and traumatised, but desperately trying to build a life for himself.
Bell and Foy have a delightful chemistry as ghostly parents keen to make up for lost time with their child. Still marred by the prejudices that defined the Thatcher era, the family offers a poignant illustration of the strange grief that comes with outgrowing lost loved ones, and the catharsis of long-overdue conversations.
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Any LGBTQ+ child who grew up feeling misunderstood will no doubt see themselves in the Adam’s fear of rejection and hesitant hope. And Haigh perfectly captures a portrait of a distant parent, both desperate to accept their child and conversely afraid of discovering an unwanted truth.
All the while, Mescal and Scott nurture their relationship, set to an 80s soundtrack (think Pet Shop Boys), interspersed with tender sex scenes, a vibrant gay club scene, sincere conversations about grief and the steady thrum of joy found in blossoming love.
There are laugh-out-loud conversations, moments suffused with the warmth of unconditional love and scenes that will have you reaching for the tissues. Over the course of two hours, Haigh meticulously builds a rich inner world, filled with twists and turns that will have you hooked until the final moment.
All of Us Strangers is due to open in the US on 22 December and in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on 26 January, 2024.
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