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Movie Review: All of Us Strangers



 

In theaters December 22, 2023.


“Where are the rules of grief written, and who do we offend when we write our own?” - Sally Britton


*I yammer for the first three paragraphs. Skip to the fourth if you have no interest in my wandering thought process.*


I am what the internet has exhaustively described as an introvert. It’s like a goddamn badge of honor for these people as if being closed off and socially awkward is somehow endearing. It’s always been a hindrance if you ask me. But in the words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” I’m supposed to be writing about a movie so what’s the point of telling you this as if you were my therapist?



It would stand to reason that by choosing to write about movies all the time that I genuinely love movies. Sometimes my bitchy little emotions, the same ones that make me the lovable introvert that I am, will attempt to prevent me from even seeing movies, the very thing that I love so much. It’s a real pickle sometimes. Anyway I bring this up because I had so little desire to see this movie that I almost passed on the gracious invitation to see it with a friend of mine. “Why go anywhere when I can stay on my couch in my boxer briefs and enjoy some good ol’ Thursday Night Football with a snack and drink,” I thought to myself.



It’s in these moments that I have to remind myself that it’s a privilege to be able to review movies like I do and to squander it isn’t the most grateful thing I can do when it comes to those that have allowed for me to do this whole movie critic thing. Not having a lot of interest in seeing something is the very reason to give something a chance. I’ve learned this so many times and yet I have to remind myself of it all the damn time. Being the Ricardos immediately comes to mind for some reason. It was a movie I had zero desire to see but through circumstance I gave it a chance and it ended up as one of my favorite movies of 2021. I remembered this when all I wanted to do was be lazy and refrain from putting on my pants. So I forced myself to put pants on (dammit) and I left for the movie theater. Much like Being the Ricardos, All of Us Strangers will undoubtedly end up on my top ten list of the year.

 

All of Us Strangers is the best kind of cinematic surprise. A movie you know virtually nothing about and have no expectations of becoming one of the best things you saw that year. It’s a bit of a rarity these days unfortunately so when it does happen I think it’s important to commemorate the occasion. I must warn you though if you are considering seeing this movie now based on my opinion. First, thank you, that means a lot. Second, you need to know something about me - I’m a sick individual that finds some sort of enjoyment in sad movies. And let me tell you something, this movie is a doozy.



At the center is Adam. He is alone and knows little beyond it. He lives in an empty apartment building with the exception of one other tenant roughly twenty floors below him. He hasn’t been in a romantic relationship in years and in his forties hasn’t seen his parents since he was eleven years old when they died tragically in a car accident. The very idea of love is foreign to him in just about every way imaginable. He watches television as its glow is the only thing lighting his apartment. He eats takeout and falls asleep on his couch in a trance of repetition and loneliness. He is in a rut and if you asked him he would likely be unable to tell you when he wasn’t “stuck.”


One day in the midst of his self-imposed isolation he looks at old photographs from his lost youth and sees a photo of his childhood home - the last place he lived with his parents. He decides to take a day trip from his place in London to a more rural, small town where his former home resides. After his brief exploration of the property he goes to the local grocery store where the fantasy truly begins. He sees a man staring intently at him as if there is a kind of recognition between them. Curious, Adam approaches the man and immediately realizes why this stranger has such a familiarity about him. It’s because this man is his father. Obviously confused how this could be true but unable to explain it he follows him to their home where his mother awaits them.



If it wasn’t odd enough that his dead parents are somehow alive and well, they are the very age they were when they died. It’s almost as if time and death itself forgot about them. As Adam soon learns however, he is the only one that can perceive them. Rather than wasting time trying to figure the hows and whys of it all, they accept the phenomenon and use this unexpected precious time to get to know one another but as adults. They have seemingly reached through time and found one another all over again.


At the same time that Adam is discovering who his parents are he is beginning a relationship with the only other tenant in his building; a mysterious man named Harry. At first it is a purely physical relationship. As Adam tells his parents about Harry they ask the heaviest question of all - Does he love him? He lost his parents when he was a child and has basically been alone most of his life. Adam can barely begin to understand the concept of love let alone if he’s found it in Harry. He simply says that he hopes it is love. Together Adam and Harry unveil their lives to one another, triumphs and tragedies alike. They bond and fall for one another, even when they don’t fully understand what the other person means to them. All at once Adam goes from being alone to finding love and discovering the mystery of his parents somehow still being alive. All of Us Strangers is about the examination of love and grief left in the wake of immense loss.



If you’re hoping for a how or why this is all happening you won’t find it here. Writer and director Andrew Haigh isn’t interested in explaining how Adam’s parents are alive or why Harry has suddenly come into Adam’s life. It’s a bit like the message of accepting the love that comes into our lives rather than trying to waste time and energy wondering why now and why me. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth comes to mind.


This movie is tragic and at times hopelessly morose but it always tries to find the light again. At its darkest it’s still trying to teach a lesson. In my opinion it’s about learning that grief is a part of life and that its existence is a sign that you loved something or someone so deeply and completely that grief is, in its own weird way, a gift. It is leftover love with nowhere to put it and no one to give it to. It is the antithesis of feeling complete, an absence of the best thing you’ve likely ever or will ever feel. It means you have lived and what a privilege that is.



Andrew Scott is Adam and he is subtly brilliant. He demonstrates his sorrow with such a profound listlessness that it feels almost too raw. He finds love and almost feels guilty about it in the same moments he is trying to accept that his parents will truly never be in his life beyond these fantastical encounters that each of them knows will eventually have to come to an end. All at once he is discovering love and having to brace for the idea that he is going to lose it all over again.


Paul Mescal is Harry, Adam’s newfound center. At first Harry comes off as someone not interested beyond the physical interactions with Adam. Soon though it becomes apparent that Harry sees as much in Adam as Adam does in him. They see one another as that one thing that’s been missing. Adam’s family is dead and Harry’s is estranged. Paul as Harry is a comforting presence in the life of the main character, Adam. He is proof of something more even for the most pessimistic among us. Together their relationship is a beautiful island in an ocean of loss and sadness. They are the beginning of love and the death of Adam’s parents the end of it. It’s a circle of affection in all of its ugliness and beauty.



Claire Foy and Jamie Bell are mom and dad. They are stuck in a time when acceptance was just beginning and their understanding of who Adam has become would be a learning experience for both of them. They play the parents to perfection as both feeling a bit helpless and as a source of comfort to their now grown son who is suddenly back in their lives. Foy, Bell and Scott play off of one another with such tenderness and believability and it’s a wonder to experience. Their relationship is in many ways the heart of the film. Together with Harry, they are the arrow trying to point Adam in a direction back to a life of experiences and loving memories.


All of Us Strangers just might be my favorite surprise of 2023. It is unbelievably moving and gorgeous to experience. It is incredibly sad, yes but never without reason. If you can accept the tears it will bring you then it will also bring you a pleasant story of love however brief it may be. It is magical and impossible but somehow feels like the most raw, realistic and relatable story of grief and love that has in some way touched each and every one of us. We have all been Adam at some point in our lives. We’ve met a Harry that brings a glimpse of something better into our graying existence. I am so lucky to have experienced this film and I hope you give it a chance just like I did.



Rated R For: sexual content, language and some drug use

Runtime: 105 minutes

After Credits Scene: No

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Starring: Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, Jamie Bell

Directed By: Andrew Haigh


Out of 10

Story: 10/ Acting: 10/ Directing: 10/ Visuals: 10

OVERALL: 10/10


Buy to Own: Yes

 

Check out the trailer below:


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