Published 11/24/23

I must admit, I typically come to a film first and foremost as a fan. A good cast can work wonders to get me in the door. Surprisingly though, I was an embarrassingly latecomer to All of Us Strangers. I knew nothing of the drama until the trailer premiered, but as soon as I noted its cast, I needed this movie in my life. As a nerd with strong Anglophile tendencies going back far longer than I care to admit, the presence of Andrew Scott, Jamie Bell, Claire Foy, and Paul Mescal gave me joy. Would the film validate my delight? Or would it simply fuel disenchantment? Read on! 

All of Us Strangers follows a writer (Andrew Scott). Riding the thrill of a new relationship with a mysterious young neighbor (Paul Mescal), he returns to his childhood home. He becomes immersed in a relationship with his parents (Jamie Bell and Claire Foy) who exist in the exact same way he remembered them right before they died. Andrew Haigh directs the film from his own script. The story comes from a novel by Taichi Yamada. 

Andrew Scott stands by himself in a subway train as he hangs onto an overhead bar.

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

Even a simple glance over this film’s cast list should get Anglophiles truly excited. The weight of this high concept and dreamlike story is a feast for this talented team of performers. Andrew Scott and Jamie Bell will be familiar faces to many Geek Girl Authority readers, while Claire Foy and Paul Mescal are newer (but equally delightful) faces on our screens. They will have lots of fans here. Every member of the cast carries this challenging narrative on their shoulders and (if this critic has anything to say about it) should be mentioned come awards season. 

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Andrew Scott in particular gives a heartwrenching and devestatingly beautiful performance. As the main player in this tiny cast, he’s on-screen for the entire achingly quiet runtime. However, in each and every frame he’s beautifully present. We follow him through a wide swath of emotion. This is a story of love, loss, loneliness, and above all, longing. He’s perfect here and has never been better. This will be a snub if he isn’t mentioned in Best Actor conversations come Oscar time. 

At the same time, this cast finds stunning chemistry from top to bottom. This ranges from Paul Mescal’s seemingly simple performance (which very much guides the narrative) to the powerful bond between Scott, Foy, and Bell. Every moment is pitch-perfect in its beauty and simplicity. 

Jamie Bell stands by himself on a hillside at sunset. Andrew Scott stands behind him in a blur.

Jamie Bell in ALL OF US STRANGERS. Photo by Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Haigh’s script revels in the high concept, dreamy nature of the narrative. As a viewer, I found myself riveted from start to finish. There’s so much to see and think about and as All of Us Strangers reaches its melodic ending, I’m ready to watch it again. The final (no spoilers!) scene sparks questions that aren’t easy to answer. In fact, this is a movie that leaves you with almost more questions than answers and surprisingly, it felt like a good thing.

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While this ending won’t work for some, it’s quietly successful in its atmospheric examination of the film’s key theme, loneliness. The sensation is palpable throughout the movie and it permeates strikingly through every frame.  

At the same time, Haigh’s script is fascinating with some brutally deep concepts. Most notable is the film’s examination of the passage of time and the societal construct that is “adulthood.” Few things are quite as strange as the moment you realize your parents are human. They don’t have all the answers. They aren’t perfect. As Adam (Scott) interacts with his parents, he finds himself torn between the blind worship of the “grown-up” parents he never knew and the heartbreak of the realization that they weren’t perfect. They are humans with pain, struggles, and regrets of their own. 

Andrew Scott smiles as he sits at a table in front of Claire Foy.

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

Ultimately, I knew nothing about All of Us Strangers as I walked into the theater, and this is the way to see this movie. This small, simple film is the unexpected sweetheart of the holiday season and it’s a must-see. It’s my favorite film of 2023 and with still a month to go, it will be hard to beat. It’s weepy and emotional, but in that, it’s a beautifully touching experience. These performers are functioning at their peak and their work here is a thing to behold. Bring your tissues and make sure you add All of Us Strangers to your list this holiday season. 

All of Us Strangers opens in theaters around the country on December 22, 2023.  

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Kimberly Pierce
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