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All of us really are strangers

All of us really are strangers

            All of us strangers was one of the films that initially slipped through my fingers. But when my friend Kseniia showed me the trailer, I knew it would be something different. What I didn’t know, it will turn out to be one of the most heartbreaking films I’ve ever seen.

A drink? It’s Japanese. It’s meant to be the best in the world, but I couldn’t tell you why.

            This 2023 romantic fantasy was written and directed by English filmmaker, Andrew Haigh. It is based on a book called “Strangers” by Taichi Yamada, with a twist. A more tear-jerking one, if you ask me. 

via IMDb

It is a second adaptation of this novel, the first being The Discarnates, a Japanese horror from 1988. Will I watch it? Maybe, because I just told MM the other night that I am ready to embrace my “classic horrors era”, so who knows – maybe we will venture in that direction as well. 

As for the writer and director himself, this was the first time I heard about him, despite making such movies as: Weekend (2011), 45 Years (2015) and Lean on Pete (2017). But the very first scene set the intimate and emotional tone for all of us in the theater, and we knew it was going to be a good one. 

We don’t have to do anything if I’m not your type. There’s vampires at my door.

            The plot follows a lonely TV screenwriter Adam, who lives a lonely life in a somewhat abandoned? Building in London. He is trying to write something about his life, his parents and while doing so, he decides to find his childhood house. 

Adam’s parents died in a car accident when he was a young boy and he didn’t process the loss. He didn’t allow himself to grieve and what’s worse, as we learn, he was deprived of the chance to say goodbye. One night, he meets his only neighbor, Harry, who knocks at Adam’s door, asking if he would like to join him for a drink. Adam is shy, closed up, introverted and he says no. 

Photo by Chris Harris/Chris Harris, via IMDb

The other side of the story is the delusion, the fantasy in which Adam returns to his childhood house and… Interacts with his dead parents. But his parents are very much alive, and invested. They want to know everything. 

Been thinking about you all week today. I was thinking about watching crappy TV with you on a Friday night. Watching old episodes of Top of the Pops from before I was born. Eating takeaway on the sofa.

            Haigh decided to have only 4 actors – Andrew Scott (Adam), Paul Mescal (Harry), Dad (Jamie Bell) and Mum (Claire Foy). While Scott and Mescal were both simply amazing, I am fully hats off for Bell and Foy. The relationship between “current” Adam – openly gay, lonely and introverted and his parents – close-minded mother and regretful father is complicated to say the least.

The 30-something Adam is still, at this age, looking for approval, validation and, well, love, from his deceased folks. He could only imagine how life would look like, if they would live long enough to see how times changed.

The scene where Adam’s father is asking for forgiveness broke my heart for the first time – even though he was more comfortable with Adam’s sexuality than his mother. However, the more time Adam spent with his parents, the less he wanted to let them go. 

Photo by Chris Harris/Chris Harris, via IMDb

My favorite scene between all of them was decorating the tree – You were always on my mind will never be the same again, in the best possible way. Sometimes saying “sorry” is one of the hardest things to do… We all know that, right? 

You were always scared of something. Always running away. Do you remember?

            Fear is extremely powerful. It keeps us from making changes or trying something new for the first time. I know that feeling very well, but I am less and less afraid with each day. After all, soon I am embarking on another journey and it’s kind of scary. But you know what? I am embracing it.

But this post isn’t about me, Lot. Adam’s fear and his unresolved issues kept him from having a life, falling deeper and deeper into a fantasy. A fantasy that made him feel less alone…? Or at least that is what he thought. 

via IMDb

Adam’s relationship with Harry could save him. For a moment there, Adam stopped being afraid and took a risk, gaining something soft and beautiful. Almost real… Almost. The plot twist, the last scene of All of us stranger got all of us strangers in the theater to weep. And as usual, there was a dead silence. 

You are not in there. This is you, here. With me.

            The realization that Adam’s entire “relationship” with Harry was a part of the extensive, soul-destroying fantasy was gut-wrenching. It made my head spin; I couldn’t comprehend it at first. 

And then I realized how important it is to have healthy relationships with all important people in your life – parents, siblings, friends, your partner. Because we never know when will be the last time you speak with someone. I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but it really made me think.

via IMDb

The way Adam’s grandparents tried to protect him from the pain of seeing his mother in such a tragic state was the very same thing that led him to living in a fantasy, instead of out there, in the world. 

I’ll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door…

            All of us strangers is an intimate story about profound grief and love, regret and fear through the emotional lens of solitude and loneliness. Deeply rooted in simple yet complicated human emotion, it takes us on a journey of self-discovery and realization. For me, it was a cathartic experience. 

One more thing: the colors and the music. Using the well-known and evergreen-loved tunes from the 80s was just the additional pinch of nostalgia we all didn’t know we needed. And the use of colors, the vibrant aesthetic combined with muted reality… Simply amazing.

Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh/Parisa Taghizadeh – © parisatag.com, via IMDb

It’s a shame it didn’t get any Oscar nomination, but damn – we all know in the end, it’s always about how the audience feels about it. And let me tell you – we all felt fully, profoundly and with Adam. Like it was a story about all of us, in a way. 

            And the „open yet closed” ending is just a masterpiece on storytelling – literally and figuratively speaking.

2 thoughts on “All of us really are strangers

  1. I went in with zero expectations and left with puffy eyes and soul torn. This is a beautiful movie, all of those images are so deep, some of them like a soft blanket around you, other piercing right through you..
    I concur with what you said about Oscars. It’s truly a pity that it didn’t get nominated „at least” for cinematography.. But I guess it the reactions and reviews like this one that truly mean something as movies are ultimately made for the viewers (or at least that’s what I hope for).

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