Deborah Ross

Mesmerising: All of Us Strangers reviewed

There are ghosts but don't let that put you off

You’ll want to reach into the screen and comfort him: Andrew Scott (Adam) in All of Us Strangers. Photo by Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved

Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers is an aching tale of grief, loss and loneliness starring Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, so I probably don’t need to tell you the acting is off the scale but I will anyway: the acting is off the scale. Scott, in particular, infuses his character with such vulnerability that you’ll want to reach into the screen and comfort him. And while it does feature ghosts, don’t let that put you off. They’re the doable kind rather than the walking-through-walls, ‘wooOOO-wooOOO’ kind. (Huge relief all round.)

Haigh makes complex, intimate, single-protagonist films (Weekend, 45 Years, Lean on Pete) and this is no exception. Here Scott plays Adam, who lives on the 27th floor of a plush but barely populated London tower block that gives off Ballardian vibes. The opening five minutes do enough to tell us he is not in a good place. He watches daytime TV, eats biscuits, inspects the contents of his fridge (curdled takeaway leftovers), puts Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’ on the turntable, which becomes something of a leitmotif.

He is a screenwriter and has written the first line of a script – ‘EXT. SUBURBAN HOUSE. 1987’ – but that’s it, he can’t get any further. He is prompted to dig out a box of old family photographs which in turn prompts him to visit his childhood home near Croydon where, astonishingly, he finds it’s still 1987 and his mother (Claire Foy) and father (Jamie Bell) are somehow alive. They died in a car crash when Adam was 11 and are the age they were then, which means they are slightly younger than their adult son.

Adam is overwhelmed and elated, whereas they are welcoming but behave quite normally.

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