Spoiler Alert (Not Really)
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Published in: May-June 2024 issue.

Directed by Andrew Haigh
Searchlight Pictures


SCREENWRITER SITS in a dark apartment in a high-rise in London, trying to write about his childhood. Desperate for inspiration, he decides one day to take the Tube (subway) back to the house in which he grew up. When he arrives at his boyhood home, he discovers that his parents, who died in a car crash when he was twelve, are living there. They are unchanged. He goes inside and they serve him dinner, and he fills them in on what has happened since they died. Such a simple idea, and one that gets more profound as it goes along.

            The loneliness that drenches, soaks, All of Us Strangers is established at the start. The high-rise in which Adam, the handsome, blocked, middle-aged writer (played by Andrew Scott) lives seems to have no other residents but him. When a fire alarm goes off, he alone leaves the building and walks out into a meadow. When, back in his room, he hears a knock on his door, he finds there a young man named Harry (Paul Mescal) who tries to invite himself in, telling Adam that he is always alone, that he’s never seen Adam with anyone. Adam declines the invitation to trick, and closes the door.

            Everything in this film conspires to convey a profound sense of isolation: the city beneath his window that looks so far away, a small cluster of skyscrapers breaching a green canopy of trees, the strangers on the train he takes to visit his childhood home in the hope that something there will inspire him. The premise—that Adam’s parents are still the age they were on the day of their fatal car crash—means that they and their son can talk to one another over meals, or while decorating the Christmas tree, or even when sharing their bed after Adam puts on his childhood pajamas and climbs into bed between them. Adam’s father (Jamie Bell) is a handsome clone—if nothing else, this film should bring back the moustache—his mother (Claire Foy) a pretty woman who seems satisfied with the way her son has turned out, until Adam reveals that he is gay, which triggers a barrage of questions. Things have gotten better, he assures her, for gay people; two men can even marry each other. (“Why?” his mother shouts.) The confrontation between Then and Now allows Adam to unload a lot of baggage. Soon enough, when he returns to the high-rise, he begins to have sex, and post-coital conversations, with Harry. They even go to a disco together.

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Andrew Holleran’s latest novel is The Kingdom of Sand.