Heartland: All of Us Strangers
Andrew Haigh's romantic drama is a deeply human portrait of grief, family, and finding love.
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Andrew Haigh’s “All of Us Strangers” is far from an easy watch, but that shouldn’t shock those familiar with Haigh’s work.
What sets the British filmmaker apart from some of his peers is the beautiful way he can blur the line between something arthouse-esque and something much more personal and grounded. Very few directors are able to do this without feeling self-indulgent or pretentious, but Haigh is a master at it, and “All of Us Strangers” is an incredible showcase of his best traits as a storyteller.
The film centers around Adam (Andrew Scott), a struggling screenwriter who lives a quite lonely life in his London apartment. After the sudden death of his parents, 30 years prior, Adam became much more closed off. That is until one day, his enigmatic neighbor Harry (Paul Mescal) shows up at his door. The two form a close and intimate romance, Harry is extremely patient and gentle with Adam, he never manipulates him, and lets their love for each other play out organically.
While visiting his childhood home, Adam is astounded to find that his parents (Jamie Bell & Claire Foy) are seemingly both alive and look the exactly same, they haven’t aged a day since their deaths. They welcome him in with open arms, curious to learn about his career as a writer and whether or not he has a girlfriend. This joyous reunion becomes much more emotional when Adam realizes he has to come out to his parents, who still very much live in the past. It’s not that they’re blatantly homophobic, but their minds seem trapped in the early eighties when homosexuality wasn’t nearly as accepted as it is now.
As you can likely tell, “All of Us Strangers” is an intimate film. The cast is relegated to its four leads, but most predominantly Adam. While the simple premise of a man reuniting with his deceased parents seems fantastical, it's played in a way that feels grounded in reality and told with the utmost sincerity. The characters act in ways that might not always be morally right - primarily Adam’s parents - but also it portrays them as human beings first. Adam clearly wants his parents to be much more accepting of his sexuality, but that doesn’t mean he does not love them any less. Haigh tackles the film with the utmost maturity and understanding, he’s not using this story to preach to the audience but instead aspires to tell a story that feels personal to him, yet has elements that every audience member will find something to connect with.
Haigh’s direction has a lot of artistry behind it, painting a beautiful and layered portrait of coming to terms with one’s grief. There is plenty of visual symbolism on display, but the dialogue itself feels natural and delicate.
Scott gives a terrific performance as Adam, whose character is the heart and soul of the film. While his three co-stars have gotten their chance for leading performances in other films and series, Scott is finally given the full spotlight he has rightfully deserved. His acting makes it increasingly easy to root for him and feel for him.
Mescal is a great addition to the cast as well, sharing some excellent romantic chemistry with Scott. Foy and Bell also give equally strong performances as Adam’s parents, each getting scenes alongside Scott where they truly shine on camera, especially when Adam comes out to each of them during different moments of the film.
Admittingly “All of Us Strangers” moves at a very slow pace, it feels warranted, but at times might feel like a turn-off for some audience members, especially when the film begins to confront certain themes during the third act, including the truth behind Adam’s visions of his parents.
Haigh has painted such a touching, poignant, and heartbreaking portrait of family, grief, and opening up to love with “All of Us Strangers” and is a rewarding viewing that will no doubt make your eyes water.