Review by Tatiana Miranda
When it comes to queer cinema, stories tend to focus on the youthful side of LGBTQ+ identities. Often, they feature a sense of coming-of-age and scenes of coming out to friends and family. While All of Us Strangers doesn't *not* do those things, it does them in a re-inventive way that says more about the cultural understandings of queerness, rather than one personal identity.
Based on the film's promotional images and beloved leading men, All of Us Strangers might seem like your average sad gay romance. Although the movie is both sad and gay (How could it star Paul Mescal and not be a little depressing?), the romance aspect is probably the least moving part of the film. Even with Mescal and Andrew Scott's undeniable on-screen chemistry, their characters' love story plays second fiddle to the main plot at hand.
Loosely based on the 1987 Japanese novel Strangers, the movie centers around 40-something-year-old screenwriter Adam (Scott), as he routinely revisits his childhood home in an attempt to reconnect with his long-deceased parents. Although he starts this routine as a way to gain inspiration for his writing, it slowly turns into a mode of therapy, as he communes with the imagined versions of his mother and father.
Even though All of Us Strangers is probably one of the more hopeful queer films to come out of late, it is still intensely emotional and full of a sense of loneliness that is both personal to the characters and also a reflection of the realities of being gay without a community to share that revelation with. As Adam grows closer to Mescal's character, Harry, he reveals his identity to his parents, imagining how they might react to him coming out.
The differences in Harry's and Adam's individual gay identities are also incredibly significant. Due to his age and personal trauma, Adam is more reserved when it comes to romance. Meanwhile, Harry is perhaps overly flirtatious. For Harry, his outward sexuality comes easy to him, a sign of the times changing and his ability to have properly come out to his family, even if they no longer talk to him.
Although All of Us Strangers is touching as a romance with incredible performances by both Scott and Mescal, as well as Claire Foy and Jamie Bell as Adam's parents, its emotional aspects come from its unorthodox and refreshing look at navigating sexuality and coming out past your youth. Director Andrew Haigh's well-thought-out adaptation, paired with editor Jonathan Alberts's masterful blending of the "past" and present, makes it an unforgettable film.
All of Us Strangers screened at the 2023 edition of NewFest, which runs October 12-24.