It's the stuff of dreams: the characters of Andrew Scott, aka the Hot Priest, and Paul Mescal, Normal people's heartthrob extraordinaire, fall in love in a new eerie story directed by Andrew Haigh.
But unfortunately, their affair is far from breezy: Haigh's moody romance drama is a meditation on memory and love, and drills down on the way human beings cope with loss.
"If you don't cry at Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal's performances in All of Us Strangers, you need to start asking yourself some questions..." said the Standard in a piece about how to watch the film without weeping throughout (spoiler alert: you can't).
Here's everything to know about All of Us Strangers.
What's the film about?
All of Us Strangers is loosely based on Japanese writer Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel Strangers, which tells the story of a man who befriends two strangers who closely resemble his dead parents. His health deteriorates and he realises they are ghosts feasting on his energy.
In Haigh's adaptation, the film follows Andrew Scott's character, Adam, who returns to his rural childhood home from London, where his dead parents seems to be still residing.
Although they cannot be real, they certainly feel real, and the experience allows him to go over childhood memories: "All the way through All of Us Strangers, writer-director Andrew Haigh’s noble attempt to introduce the complex subject of gay shame to the mainstream, I was reminded of the most famous line of Philip Larkin’s poetry. “They f*** you up, your mum and dad/ They may not mean to, but they do.” What would happen, poses Haigh, if they got to apologise afterwards?" said the Standard.
Running alongside this story is the blossoming relationship between Adam and his neighbour Harry (Paul Mescal), with whom he slowly falls in love.
Is there a trailer?
Yes, we've added it at the top of the page. Against the extended dance version of the Pet Shop Boys’ Always On My Mind, we are introduced to Adam and Harry. It’s not clear what they mean to each other yet – or will come to mean to each other – but they start talking about Adam’s childhood. His parents died just before he was 12 years old, he tells Harry.
The trailer takes us away from the London tower block, and to a suburban house – Adam’s childhood home. Adam approaches the building, and as he enters his mum (Claire Foy) and dad (Jamie Bell) welcome him, frozen in time?
“Is this real?” asks Adam. “Does it feel real?” replies his mum.
“Our boy’s back home,” smiles his dad, holding out his glass in another scene, as the reunited family sits around the table. Judging by these strange, sorrowful scenes, the film is going to be an absolute tearjerker.
Who has made the film?
All of Us Strangers has been written and directed by award-winning British filmmaker Haigh, whose 2011 drama film Weekend told the story of a brief but intense romance between two men who meet at a gay club. The film was highly praised and won Best Screenplay at the Evening Standard British Film Awards.
Since then, Haigh has directed and written 45 Years (2015), which starred Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as two retirees who have been married for 45 years. At the 2015 Berlin Film Festival, both actors won the Silver Bear awards for their roles in the film.
Haigh also directed Lean on Pete (2017), a coming-of-age drama which starred Charlie Plummer as a young man who makes friends with a racehorse.
What have the critics said?
All of Us Strangers premiered at the 50th Telluride Film Festival in Colorado in late August, where it picked up some stellar reviews.
The film has 94 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been described by critics as “a nuclear-grade tearjerker”, “an enormously satisfying and affecting experience,” and having “piercing insight and arresting performances”.
The Standard loved it, describing it as "bleakly handsome filmmaking, with a virtuoso cast". Other reviewers have been just as taken by the film, calling it, "an emotionally wrenching masterpiece", "mesmerising", and a "glorious magic-realist meditation on grief".
What have the actors said?
Both Scott and Mescal have been doing a lot of press for the film. Speaking to British Vogue about working with Scott, Mescal said: "We became very close because of the nature of this project – not just because of the sex scenes, but because of the emotional intimacy that these two characters share. That was just the perfect climate to fall in love with Andrew as a human being. It’s a very easy thing to do."
Scott, who is gay, has spoken about the film's exploration of gay shame: "I think for so many people, particularly queer people, you can feel like a stranger in your own family," he said to ABC Entertainment. "Even if they haven't directly rejected you, you just feel slightly different… [But] discomfort within a family and love within a family can coexist. It's pretty common."
All of Us Strangers premiered in the UK on January 26, 2024