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  • Writer's pictureDenise Breen

All of Us Strangers is a hauntingly beautiful, mesmerising film

5 out of 5

If I said to you, this is a melodrama with a hint of the supernatural - it would pique your interest. Well, that's exactly what writer and director Andrew Haigh brings us with his new film All of Us Strangers. It is probably the most human story you will see in the cinema this year. This isn’t a film that tugs on your heartstrings so much as opens fire on your emotional defences. And yet it never feels cynical. It never feels forced. It creeps up on you and before you know it, shreds your heart and leaves you weeping. It does this through human observation, a superb script and four incredible performances.

Our own Andrew Scott shines as gay London screenwriter Adam, whose solitary existence in a soulless new tower block is pierced by the advances of lonely young neighbour Harry (Paul Mescal). Their burgeoning relationship is countered by a strange retreat into the past.

On a nostalgic tour to his childhood home, Adam is surprised to find his long-dead parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) seemingly alive and well, and eager to catch up with the son they never really knew.

All of Us Strangers is a ghost story that plays as aching realism. This unexpected reunion forces the family to confront the secrets and prejudices that they never did in the real world, while Adam considers his lifelong struggle with human connection, in the light of his new romance.

I have to admit, the film ws not what I was expecting. The trailer led me to believe that the film was about the awkward relationship between Adam and Harry and that along the way we saw flashbacks with Adam and his parents as he remembered his childhood. I was totally disarmed. The film is an exploration of love, grief and forgiveness.

Andrew Haigh, as both writer and director, has that special knack of crafting highly particular characters in which the audience can nonetheless see themselves reflected. For anyone who grew up closeted from their families, expect to experience more than one cathartic shiver of recognition. But Haigh’s film is so bright and lucid and emotionally expressive that you needn’t have experienced its story to vividly live it here.

Let's talk about the performances. Andrew Scott is totally captivating on screen and is richly deserving of any and all awards this year. Paul Mescal is disarmingly handsome and he brings a delightful roguishness to the character together with a vulnerability and warmth that won me over. Special mention and kudos to the two supporting actors, Claire Foy and Jamie Bell who play Adam's deceased parents. Foy is on top form but the surprise for me was Bell. Not since Billy Elliot have I seen him give such a beautiful performance. The scene in the living room where he and his son discuss the news that his son is gay is so well written, so well performed it is a stand-out moment in a film with so many stand-out moments. Bell is nuanced and brilliant.

Did I mention it's my second five-star film of 2024? Go see this film in the cinema. Experience humanity, and bring tissues.

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