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There is a subtle, humane beauty at the core of intimate ghost story All of us Strangers and while I’m sure plenty will be moved to tears by it, I was not fully won over by what the film tries to achieve.

All of us Strangers is anchored by a quartet of wonderful performances. Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, Jamie Bell and especially Andrew Scott – as a writer who sees the ghost of his parents, who died in a car crash when he was twelve years old – do their utmost to make you care for the characters they inhabit.

Writer-director Andrew Haigh also fashions an intriguing atmosphere, built on moody light design, claustrophobic camerawork and a soundtrack filled to the brim with nostalgic eighties Britpop anthems. Coupled with profound, personal themes that touch upon big city isolation and the power of parental love, this gives All of us Strangers all the ingredients to succeed as a touching, universal portrait.

Yet, for some reason I cannot put my finger on, the picture’s emotions mostly fell flat for me. Perhaps Haigh tries too hard to be subtle and ambiguous, creating an adverse effect. Perhaps the lack of surprises or a middle act wherein not a lot happens made me tune out to the thematic undercurrent.

Whatever the reason, All of us Strangers struck me as a film that is a bit of an intangible ghost itself and whose merits are enhanced or depreciated by the personal history of the viewer. So even if I was mostly immune to the film’s message upon first viewing, in the future it might still make me weep uncontrollably, as many people in the cinema I saw it did.

release: 2023

director: Andrew Haigh

starring: Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, Jamie Bell


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