All Of Us Strangers

I left in bits. Whilst billed as a romance between Andrew Scott’s Adam and Paul Mescal’s Harry, Andrew Haigh’s bittersweet drama is so much more. Themes of connection, loneliness, love, loss, grief, forgiveness, reconciliation, acceptance are all in there. Based on a Taichi Yamada story, it’s also a literally haunting ghost story of lonely Londoners and long-dead parents. Most of all, this is Jamie Bell’s film — he’s superb!

Adam lives in a smart urban flat in a contemporary block. Absence is the key here — there aren’t any visible neighbours, friends, family. He tries to write screenplays, fights writer’s block, binges on day-time TV and snacks, sleeps — and repeats. Until he is rudely awakened by a fire alarm — which only he goes outside for. Looking up, he sees another apartment dweller in a blue-lit flat.

Abruptly, the same man turns up at his door, drunk, and tries to invite himself in. Adam is having none of this. There is an awkward meeting by the lifts. How is it possible, the film asks, to be in such a busy city and be alone? Both Adam and Harry long for connection, to connect, to be seen, heard, loved, not alone. At the same time, Adam is thinking about the past — we see him rummaging through childhood possessions and photos. He makes a trip to his childhood home and the area where he grew up.

Equally abruptly as Harry turning up at his front door, Adam spots a man he recognises — and follows him. It’s his dad. They return to his family home, where his mum is there too. Only both his parents died when he was twelve in a car crash. Although his ghostly parents seem to know they’re deceased, everyone carries on as a normal. There is a warm welcome, a meal, love. Through connecting with his parents again, Adam is able to connect with Harry too.

There are painful conversations with his mum, and later his dad. (Sometimes his parents are encountered at the family home solo). Adam comes out to his mum who is shocked, and worried. His dad is much more understanding, and wants Adam to understand his mum too — she will come round, she just needs to change her narrative.

There are also good times too. Adult Adam (though in his childish behaviour) remembers happy family Christmases — and the terrible way one Christmas ended with the death of his dad, and later his mum. But he remembers the love and safety of being together. We see what an anxious, fearful child he was — and how his parents didn’t get that at the time. At the same time they love their sensitive, creative boy — and cherish him. They regret not being better parents.

His ghostly parents take Adam to his favourite American diner — and say farewell. They want their son to move on. It’s incredibly moving as they express their love for him, but also admit that they haven’t been perfect — and at times let him down. Adam doesn’t want them to go, but they go one by one, (as in the accident), leaving him grief-stricken, but also loved and whole. Connected.

Ending is a bit ambiguous. Adam seemingly isn’t done with ghosts from what is suggested. Or maybe it is just a happy ending.

Jamie Bell and Claire Foy as Andrew Scott’s parents are stellar. The characters are fully formed, imperfect, judgemental, failing, and yet loving, caring, tender. They want to understand and do better. It is very funny how they are stuck in the 1980’s — at the time of their demise. So much of this movie is about the love of parents for each other, the love of parents for their child, the love between father and son, and mother and son. Their performances are exceptional, and naturalistic.

Adam and Harry convince as a fragile couple connecting. Could have done without all the drug taking — but it’s through a bad experience at a club that Adam seems to explore his memories, really confront his past and open his heart. It also shows all the ways people try to connect — through drink, drugs, music, sex, home building — and yet don’t, feeling alone, isolated, lonely, othered.

Harry’s reconnection with his ghostly family, though painful and hurtful, allows him to love, to be with others again, to feel. To connect. It’s very, very E M Forster — with ghosts.

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Cultures: Arts Reviews and Views by Susan Tailby

By Susan Tailby. Appreciator of arts and culture; things I've seen and enjoyed and you might too! Reviews all my own opinion....Theatre, Movies, Dance & Art!