All of Us Strangers is one of the year’s most heart-wrenching and emotionally resonant films. Writer/director Andrew Haigh weaves a story of love, grief, loneliness, and nostalgia, brought to life by award-worthy performances.

One night in his near-empty high-rise in London, screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott) has a chance encounter with his neighbor Harry (Paul Mescal), which punctures the rhythm of his everyday life. As their relationship develops, Adam finds himself preoccupied with memories of the past. When he visits the suburban home where he grew up, he finds his parents living there — even though they died 30 years ago.

From the start, Haigh draws you right in to Adam’s life — the loneliness and isolation of his almost completely uninhabited London high-rise; the allure of Harry and Adam’s initial hesitation to respond to his advances; the feeling of nostalgia as Adam roams through a suburban town, clearly revisiting old haunts.

And then, of course, the kicker: when you realize the couple he’s visiting are actually his dead parents (played by Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), who as far as we can tell are alive and well in Adam’s childhood home.

Is this Adam’s internal world made real, a projection of his writing process? His fantasy manifested into reality? A hallucination brought on by nostalgia and grief? An actual haunted house occupied by familiar ghosts? We’re not sure at first, but Adam doesn’t seem concerned with the “how” or the “why” of his situation. And oddly enough, that makes his experience all the more real and emotionally resonant.

If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you’re well acquainted with how grief changes and shifts over time. As years pass, the sharpness of the pain of loss dulls, and the experience of grieving becomes more introspective. How have I changed since they knew me? What would they think of the person I am today? Would they be proud of me? Would we love each other now the same way we did then?

One of the most lingering, challenging aspects of grief is that we can only speculate the answers to those questions. But Adam doesn’t have to speculate. Adam can know. He can hop on the train, head over to his childhood home, and introduce his grown-up self to the parents he hasn’t had in his life since he was 12. So, that’s exactly what he does.

Incredible performances and a moving story make ‘All of Us Strangers’

Throughout the film, Scott delivers an incredibly moving performance. Whether he’s opening up to Harry about the loss of his parents, coming out to his mother decades after her death, or asking his father why he never said anything when he knew Adam was being bullied as a kid, every moment Scott is on screen hits you in the chest like a freight train. He’s running the gauntlet of the human experience and bringing you along to experience every emotional high and low along the way.

The trio of the most important people in Adam’s life also give top-notch performances, matching Scott’s emotional vulnerability at every turn. Mescal’s chemistry with Scott is undeniable. They’re two people who are clearly searching for connection, and the more they open up to one another, the more you’re drawn into their romance. Bell and Foy also charm as Adam’s parents. Everyone in this movie plays off of each other so well, making their characters feel real and lived in.

Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott in ALL OF US STRANGERS.  Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

As a narrative, All of Us Strangers draws you in with a developing romance and bit of mystery, then holds you captive on a deeply emotional journey full of loneliness, nostalgia, and most importantly, love. Just when you think the film can’t wring out any more emotion, it does — but every turn feels earnest and earned, never melodramatic. It’s one of the most resonant films of the year, and one that will stick with you long after the credits roll.

All of Us Strangers premieres in theaters December 22.