All of Us Strangers is a 2023 Searchlight Pictures movie directed and written by Andrew Haigh. Based on Taichi Yamada’s Strangers, it stars Andrew Scott, with Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell and Claire Foy supporting. It has made $2.6-million at the box office and opens in the U.K. today.
What drew me to the movie was Mescal. He was terrific in 2022’s iconic movie, Aftersun. In his latest feature, he captures the vulnerable character’s relaxed energy. His thoughts change nearly instantaneously from actor to character. Again, Mescal proves that he’s an A-list actor.
The various costumes were designed by Sarah Blenkinsop. Mescal has a looser style in the movie, evident in an elevator scene and a scene with him and Scott in exterior night. I liked her use of 1970s/80s gay style for Scott, like stone-washed jeans with a tight, tucked-in white tee, while stylistically having an eye on pieces more at home in the 2020s like big v-sweaters on skin.
All of Us Strangers is Haigh’s fifth movie as director and screenwriter. He gets the most out of Mescal but could have drawn more from Scott. Haigh has a keen eye for setting and relatability. Memorable shots from the movie include Mescal and Scott’s backlit kiss, and the play at the window with a man on the ground and a man in the building.
(Spoilers incoming, 2 paragraphs.) The movie has a bad ending. Scott’s character, a writer writing a screenplay about his dead parents, spends the movie conversing with ghosts. Writers talking to the dead is a trope, with roots going farther back than Aeneas at the River Styx. To have the love interest also dead in this bizarre world cheapened the curtain on the façade, which was strong when using only the deceased parents because that’s what the character’s screenplay is about. To have the boyfriend also dead, but to have one scene where he’s not dead, was silly because it calls into question the entire reality of Scott’s character. It’s a movie about trauma and isolation – loneliness. However, Haigh had the possibility to put a heart into this movie through Mescal’s character. In the end, the audience is left with Scott’s character, who hadn’t really done anything. The time spent with his parents seems unresolved, as he’s left crying in a 1950s diner while staring at three milkshakes. Once Scott started talking to ghosts, Mescal’s existence immediately came into question. Their relationship becomes virtually nothing, after his death is revealed. Mescal’s character being real would have given Scott’s character an anchor in his reality that he must question but realize is true. Mescal being dead puts him on the same side as the parents instead of the side of the living, which Scott’s character desperately needs. Thus, Scott’s perception of reality is one sided as he only conversed with dead people. For most of the movie, the audience vaguely views it as two sided, although Mescal’s cheap death was neither surprising nor effective. If Scott is outside of reality and in a ghost world, the story becomes less relatable for audiences. It also muddles scenes like the one in the club with ketamine. If Mescal was never there, where did Scott get the K from? If he is insane, how much self-deluding or self-lying is going into it?
It wasn’t afraid to get a little scary either, like when Scott brings Mescal to meet his dead parents. However, again, with Mescal being dead, this scene loses its intrigue. It becomes mad, old Scott running around London again. If Mescal is already dead, why wouldn’t he interact with the parents?
I get that the movie is a metaphor. It is set in a writer’s mind as he goes through the scenes of his next screenplay. Placing yourself in scenes is a useful tact, when writing from memory. Aside from my reservations about the plot, All of Us Strangers was worth a watch, even if it left me a little disappointed.