All Of Us Strangers

   Cast: Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, Jamie Bell Writer/Director:Andrew Haigh 

105 mins.

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal provide outstanding performances in Andrew Haigh's twist on the modern ghost story, adapted from the novel ‘Strangers’ by Taichi Yamada. A sleek but cold skyscraper in Croydon, London is the primary setting for Andrew Haigh’s adaptation. Screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott) is working on a script about his parents, who died in 1983 when he was 12, but despite mining the physical mementoes he keeps, the words just won’t come. A chance encounter with his mysterious but charming neighbour Harry (Paul Mescal), seemingly the only other resident in the building, invites the possibility of romance into Adam’s life after years of solitude, and with it comes a strange new complication. When he returns to his childhood home in search of inspiration, Adam finds his parents living there, exactly as they were before they died. His affable Dad (Jamie Bell) and doting Mum (Claire Foy) greet him warmly, very eager to catch up. Meanwhile, the process of reconnection allows Adam to let love in. His blossoming relationship with Harry begins as a way for them to stave off their mutual unspoken loneliness. But slowly something between them thaws. Adam begins to open up about his parents and his lonely childhood. Harry, who speaks with a syrupy Northern accent and is disarmingly forthcoming about his attraction to Adam, keeps his own troubles simmering beneath the surface. The chemistry between Scott and Mescal in their scenes shows Adam as shy and cagey, while Harry is impossibly worldly, and slightly heartbreaking as he deflects by bringing Adam out of his shell. There’s something desperately sad in Mescal’s gaze that only begins to decode as the film slips into its devastating final act, while Scott’s delicacy is outstandingly good. He is tasked with portraying a protagonist who is withholding and drifting, stuck – quite literally – in the past, grieving for a life he lost, and a life he never got to live. Scott rises to the challenge, lost, lonely and lovely, a little boy who simultaneously grew up before he had to, while never quite processing his phenomenal loss.

It’s accurate to call All of Us Strangers a ghost story, but Haigh’s phantoms are far from menacing. Instead, there’s a benevolence to these manifestations of insecurities and anxieties; being avatars of conversations that never took place and time that was up far too soon. One of Haigh’s great strengths is his ability to foster a deep connection between the audience and his characters, and the searing ache of losing a loved one is expertly captured here. Haigh additionally capture the catharsis offered by processing one’s pain, and learning to see your loved ones – particularly your parents – as human beings, flawed and fallible like everyone else. Such a painful excavation is profoundly moving and often wrenching, but also tentatively hopeful, suggesting peace only comes from learning to live with the melancholy of missing someone. It’s a ghost story, but a love story too – and one that will break your heart.