December 14, 2023

CINEMA | Remembering the Ghosts of 'All of Us Strangers'

"You don't look gay."
Andrew Scott Paul Mescal Andrew Haigh | All of Us Strangers
Searchlight Pictures
British filmmaker Andrew Haigh directs another emotionally devastating queer drama in the form of a haunting ghost story, All of Us Strangers, based on the 1987 Japanese novel Strangers by author Taichi Yamada and starring Andrew Scott as a middle-aged gay screenwriter orphaned as a child who somehow metaphysically manifests grief from the literal ghosts of his past through his memories of his dead parents.

A spirited Paul Mescal co-stars as Scott's mysterious neighbour and lover who helps him come to terms with his deep-seated childhood family trauma. Thanks to such a likeable and charming cast, audiences feel the emotional wreckage from the deep sense of loss that lingers when the characters' emotions start to bubble up.

Filmed in Haighs actual childhood home, Jamie Bell and Claire Foy co-star as Scott's parents (both younger than him in the present) when he was a child. How he remembers and recalls their relationship as an adult, looking back while processing his fractured identity, is so mournfully touching. All four of the performances relate to universal feelings of grief building over many years.

I did not foresee a British romantic fantasy where Scott and Mescal safely and consensually hook up and then talk about their childhood hangups or feelings afterward would be so heartbreakingly sad. Haigh's penchant for dramatizing hauntingly real human relationships despite the film's surreal elements is always wondrous. However, some details on how loss is expressed never feel quite whole.


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