Monday, January 8, 2024

Maybe you can go home again

    We don’t talk about it much but, at some point, most of us fall prey to the loneliest of sorrows — not the kind of loneliness that comes from not being around people but the kind that stems from feeling the past evaporate and with it, everything and everyone we once knew. 
   Now a grown screenwriter, Adam (Andrew Scott) was 11 when his father (Jamie Bell) and mother (Claire Foy) died in a car crash, the unseen event that allows the quietly haunting All of Us Strangers to find its emotional bearings.
   Adam, a screenwriter who’s struggling with a screenplay about his upbringing, travels from London to his family’s suburban home, a normal enough activity for a writer. 
   But when he arrives, he discovers that his mother and father still seem to be living in the home where he grew up. They haven't aged, but look exactly as they did on the day they perished.
   Strange as it seems, Adam has a chance to connect with his departed parents, to update them on the part of his life they never knew, to give them a chance to see him as a gay man. He wants them to love and accept him as he is.
   Director Andrew Haig plays Adam’s relationship with his parents against a relationship he begins with Harry (Paul Mescal), an equally lonely but more convivial neighbor.
   Deep feelings of isolation pervade nearly every scene, particularly in the early going. The two men live in a London high rise where they seem to be the only tenants, a clue that we’ve entered a moment of unsettling indeterminacy. 
   The relationship begins when Mescal’s Harry knocks on Adam’s door. He’s holding a bottle of liquor and wants to come in for a drink. Adam demurs. But the two eventually begin an affair.
   At first, Mom isn’t happy to hear the news about her son's sexual identity; her view of gay life never left the 1980s, a time when the AIDS crisis raged.
   Dad, a heavy smoker, has a different attitude, he's not harshly judgmental, although at one point, he admits that he could have been one of the guys who bullied Adam at school. 
   Loosely based on a 1987 novel by Taichi Yamada, All of Us Strangers sounds some of the same mournful notes you might expect find in a movie by the late Terrence Davies -- The Long Day Closes, for example.
   Haig treats Adam’s encounters with his parents as if they were real and leaves it for us to decide what they mean for Adam. Perhaps All of Us Strangers is mostly about Adam’s imaginative life — and the purposes it serves for him. 
   The relationship between Adam and Harry also involves elements that stretch realism. Clearly, though, Adam can’t move on until he buries his grief.
   All of Us Strangers draws us into Adam’s interior life, which means distinctions between the real and the illusory fade in and out, like chalk slowly being wiped from a blackboard and then suddenly reappearing again.
   What’s unquestionably real, though, is Adam’s pain, grief, and need for solace. In the end, Haig, whom I judge to be a director of generous spirit, doesn't deny him his comfort.

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