‘One of the best films of the year’

Even as Adam keeps heading into the past, Harry tethers him to the present. Sharply defined scenes depict their intimate sex life as well as their differences, as Haigh deftly fills in the context for these men of separate generations. Adam calls himself gay and can’t get used to the word queer. “It used to be such an insult,” he tells Harry, who says of men his age, “It’s probably why we hate ‘gay’ so much now. It was always, like, ‘Your haircut’s so gay.’ ” In bits and pieces as their relationship grows, we learn why Harry himself feels so wounded, which Mescal shows with a subtlety suggesting that this apparently free-wheeling man uses charm, drink and drugs to mask hurt and loneliness.

The film becomes more heart-wrenching as it moves on. How could it not? But every imagined scene remains full of authentic emotion. Scott makes Adam seem like a boy again in a lovely scene, as he and his parents decorate a Christmas tree and listen to the Pet Shop Boys’ bouncy electronic-pop hit You Were Always on My Mind, his mother singing along words that resonate: “If I made you feel like second best, I’m so sorry, I was blind”. But All of Us Strangers is hardly It’s a Wonderful Life, and Haigh takes it to an unexpected ending.   

With its affecting hero and the parents he imagines back to life, All of Us Strangers has been making festival audiences weep since it premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August. These four profound and tender performances, and Haigh’s uncompromising vision, make those tears feel entirely earned.

★★★★★

All of Us Strangers is released on 22 December in the US and 26 January in the UK.

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