All of Us Strangers

Searchlight Pictures
Two recent movies about memory and grief have really stuck with me: 2016’s Personal Shopper and 2022’s Aftersun. Personal Shopper was much more about grief and Aftersun about memory, but they each plumbed the deepest depths of remorse, remembering and regret, of loss and love, of grief and healing. And now, writer/director Andrew Haigh has given us a film that surpasses both films, in terms of emotional scope and inner reckoning, and it is All of Us Strangers, one of the best films of 2023.

All of Us Strangers stars Andrew Scott as Adam, a writer who feels inextricably drawn to the memory of his parents, who died in a car crash when he was 12. As the 30th anniversary of their death approaches, Adam feels inspired to write about them, and as he digs deep into his own psyche for memories and stories to tell, he returns to his hometown and to his childhood home, and finds his parents there, just as they were 30 years earlier, not ghosts, but real—so real that Adam is able to talk and engage with them as an adult, and be able to say all the things he never got to say.

Despite how emotionally delicate Adam is already, he finds himself drawn to Harry, an enigmatic stranger in his apartment building, played by Paul Mescal (who, ironically, also stars in Aftersun). Harry challenges Adam to come out of his shell and to embrace life, poignantly contrasting the emotions that interacting with his parents stir up. Their intense love affair, juxtaposed with Adam continuing to return to his house to visit his parents sends Adam on an overwhelming emotional journey that is impossible to not be moved by.

There is so much more, so much more depth to All of Us Strangers than cannot be captured in a spoiler-free summary, and what Andrew Haigh, along with co-screenwriter Taichi Yamada, has captured is the complex and impossible-to-predict vagaries of memory, of regret, of depression, of longing and of love. This film is haunting, driven by a career-defining performance from Scott, who is achingly raw and moving as a man sinking into himself, desperate to cling to love to save him from grief. Mescal is strong as well, as are Claire Foy and Jamie Bell, who play Adam’s parents, but there’s no denying All of Us Strangers is Andrew Scott’s tour de force, a performance that proves he’s so much more than a hot priest.

But, despite his many talents, Scott is only allowed to explore the character that is written and it is the screenplay for All of Us Strangers that builds the complex house that these characters live in. The way the script plays with memory, time and reality makes it feel like a dream. It is a dream that will wreck you, move you and cling to you with its melancholy and sadness. But it is not a tragedy. All of Us Strangers is about the exploration each of us must do within ourselves, to confront the lives we have made for ourselves, to confront the perceived obstacles to our happiness and to hold onto the love that has denied or defined us. It will break your heart in all the right ways.