Film review: ‘All of Us Strangers’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Director Andrew Haigh’s wonderful 2017 film, Lean on Pete, which told the story of a young guy (Charlie Plummer) travelling across the American West with a horse he had saved from the slaughterhouse was one of the most affecting films of recent times.  Haigh’s latest film, the very moving, intimate, slow burn, All Of Us Strangers  similarly draws us into a powerful emotional undercurrent and delivers a human story that stays with us well after the film has ended.

Based on the 1987 novel by Japanese author Taichi Yamada, the film sees London screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott) living a seemingly restless and unfulfilling life in a creepily isolated tower block.  The only other inhabitant of the block appears to be a guy named Harry (Foe’s Paul Mescal) who makes a drunken romantic approach to Adam and while initially rejected seems to later become Adam’s lover. Meanwhile, Adam is haunted by artefacts of his childhood in the 80’s including the music of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Fine Young Cannibals.  Intriguingly, he makes a number of strange journeys to what appears to be his childhood home but discovers his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), whom he thought dead, are still alive and the same age as when he was a child.  On these visits he attempts to redress long-held regrets and comes out to them as gay, a revelation that draws differing and unexpected responses.  Is this all just happening in Adam’s imagination or is something otherworldly going on?

Those looking for a clear resolution to this mystery as well as driving narrative momentum and a conventional linear storyline may find this film a little frustrating.  Plot plays a distant second to themes of grief, loss, regret and the intoxicating and devastating power of emotion.

This is a mature and thoughtfully nuanced film that takes elements of romance and Twilightzone-esque mystery and reshapes them into a potent psychological drama. This is, however, a slow moving and very talky movie that at times feels like a filmed play and will test impatient film goers.

While there’s no suggestion this is a biopic, there is apparently quite a personal element to this story for director Andrew Haigh.  The house in which Adam’s parents live is his childhood home and Claire Foy and Jamie Bell apparently resemble his parents.

Critical to the film are the performances of its four main cast members; no one else has any dialogue here.  All give engrossing performances but Andrew Scott and Claire Foy are particularly memorable conveying volumes of meaning and emotion with subtle looks and vocal inflections.  Each deserve at least some recognition at Oscar time.

Like Hitchcock’s Vertigo, All of Us Strangers is about tone, mood and psychology which some may find difficult to embrace but those who surrender to it will be profoundly moved.

Nick’s rating: ****

Genre: Drama/ Romance.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Andrew Haigh.

Release date: 18th Jan 2024.

Running time: 100 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm on 88.3 Southern FM.


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