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All of Us Strangers – BFI London Film Festival 2023 (Film Review)

3 min read

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in ALL OF US STRANGERS. Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

It's very rare that a film can come along and leave everyone devastated, regardless at which stage of life they're at. However, seems to have certainly done that at the numerous festivals that it has played at. A film with a very small cast speaks a ton of words to the power of love and the words we wish we said to people in our lifetime. So, here's why Andrew Haigh's latest is one to look out for.

Starring Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, the film follows Adam (Scott), a screenwriter living in a near-empty tower block in contemporary London, who has a chance encounter with his mysterious neighbour, Harry (Mescal), who punctures the rhythm of his everyday life. As Adam and Harry get closer, Adam is pulled back to his childhood home where he discovers that his long-dead parents are both living and look the same as the day they died over thirty years ago. 

Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott in ALL OF US STRANGERS. Photo by Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

For a film that has four characters, the performances from all are impeccable and truly carry the film on their shoulders. Andrew Scott (Sherlock & Pride) gives a knockout performance and the best of his career; playing a character that is incredibly complex and has multiple layers to him. Scott is able to show a wide variety of emotions in his character whilst also being sympathetic so many people can see themselves in his character.

Paul Mescal also further shows he is one of the best working actors today, giving a performance unlike anything we have seen from him before. It's very quiet and subdued compared to some of his previous work but he nails it here. These two performances from Scott and Mescal will definitely be talked about for years to come.

Claire Foy & Jamie Bell are also excellent here. Acting as the core of all the emotion in the film, they have some great moments with Adam and some of the most powerful scenes I have seen in film in a long time. There are many scenes in this film that a lot of people will strike a chord with as they know of someone that has happened to or it has happened to themselves.

Andrew Haigh's direction is equally sublime. Adapting the Japanese story from Taichi Yamada, he changes up the setting to London and is able to make each scene feel intimate and pack an emotional punch. He makes every line of dialogue feel deliberately placed so when that payoff can happen, it can move viewers to tears. Many people will resonate with its themes of grief, moving on and loneliness and he carefully puts the pieces in place so it pays off incredibly well. 

The one possible issue with the film, however, does come down to its runtime and quite abrupt ending. While that hasn't been a problem for many viewers, it ends at a point where there needed to be an extra fifteen or twenty minutes to fully conclude the movie. During its tight 105 minute length, this doesn't quite work as perfectly as everything else. 

Regardless, All of Us Strangers is a fantastic take on learning to move on and how to deal with emotion. Andrew Scott is devastatingly good, delivering a career best performance that will probably move viewers to tears. Mescal and the rest of the ensemble are also excellent and deliver knockout performance that should get them several awards come the end of the year. The film's final moments are abrupt and does drag it down slightly but this is definitely one of the best films of recent memory.

All of us Strangers played at this year's London Film Festival and will release in UK cinemas on January 26th.