All of Us Strangers, A Review


Directed by Andrew Haigh
Written by Andrew Haigh and Taichi Yamada



Rustin, Maestro, Fellow Travelers, and now a ghost story, All of Us Strangers, are among a number of films released last year, driven by queer characters.  The best thing about this new crop of films is the universal concept of love tearing through the stories.

I first saw All of Us Strangers, last October at the American Film Institute Film Festival. I left the Chinese theater on Hollywood Boulevard somewhat shellshocked and truly gob-smacked by my emotions. Unsure of my feelings, I huddled with a few gay guys outside the cinema, street-talking a bit of movie madness among strangers.  Mystified by our mutual dislocation, we tried to ponder and parse our reactions and decipher what really happened to the ghostly characters in the romantic supernatural movie we just saw.

Guided by the moody lighting and cinematography of Jamie D. Ramsay and the eerie sweetness of Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch’s music, All of Us Stranger’s opening is strangely seductive.

From the very beginning of the movie, there is something dislocating and almost metaphysical about the deserted new apartment building with only two tenants, both gay men, destined to be together: Adam (Andrew Scott), a stymied screenwriter, and Harry (Paul Mescal), a young, doe-eyed hunk.  When Adam puts aside his troublesome screenplay about his parents, who died in a car crash, and returns to the suburban London home of his childhood, he sees a handsome man in a field. The two seem to be cruising each other. But the man, played by Jamie Bell, is his dead father, who leads Andrew back to his old house where his wife, the writer’s dead mother, played by Clair Foy, awaits.

To find his mother and father alive, just as they were when they passed away, is a wonderous plot device. Who among us would not find soul-stirring and life-changing healing if we could sit down with our dead parents, open up, then mend the sores and slights of homophobia, and gain total acceptance and unconditional love?  Oh, what a reconciliation that would be for anyone, gay or straight, rejected by their mother and father.  All of Us Strangers mines a rich vein of emotionality territory, in this way.

The sensitive and sure-footed direction of Andrew Haigh, who adapted the script from a novel written by Taichi Yamada, sizzles with sexual tension. Haigh takes us through the confusing narrative of who and what is real, making us want to suspend our disbelief and fall deeply in love with the characters, taking us through their experiences of self-forgiveness and romantic and familial love. The parallel story of two lonely, alienated men who live in the same apartment building overtakes the narrative and becomes a sweet, sad, supernatural love story.  Ultimately, it is the chemistry between Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal that sets the movie on fire.

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal have burnished their movie star credentials here and are now both in hot demand. Scott stars in Ripley soon to stream on Netflix in April, which is based on a book written by notorious lesbian Patricia Highsmith, author of the novel, Carol, which was turned into a movie; and Mescal, whose larger-than-life billboards are still currently littering Sunset Boulevard, stars in the major epic, Gladiator 2, due this fall.

All Of Us Strangers will be available on Hulu and digital retailers on February 22.


Phil Tarley, writer, filmmaker, curator, and photographer, is the only fellow of the American Film Institute ever inducted into the Gay Porn Hall of Fame as producer-director Phil St. John, his nom de porn. Tarley’s essays and photography have appeared in American PhotoLA WeeklyWow Report, Fabrik, Advocate, and other print and online publications. 


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