Inverse Recommends

2023's Most Haunting Movie is Now Streaming on Hulu

You'll cry, but you won't be mad about it.

Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott in 'All of Us Strangers'
Searchlight Pictures
Inverse Recommends

When you lose someone close to you, you’re left haunted not only by their sudden absence but also by what will never be. Few things nag at a person more than the things they wish they’d said, and when mortality gets involved, those unspoken conversations tend to ring even louder in your ears.

It’s hard not to let the weight of what you’ve lost hold you in place, and few films understand that better than All of Us Strangers. The Andrew Haigh-directed drama offers a decidedly non-traditional twist on a ghost story, one that prioritizes moments of profound emotional catharsis and personal reckonings. It was one of the best films to hit theaters in 2023, and now that it’s streaming on Hulu it deserves your attention.

Based on a 1987 novel by Taichi Yamada, All of Us Strangers follows Adam (Andrew Scott), a gay screenwriter whose isolated London life is upended when he decides to take an impromptu trip to his hometown. When he arrives, he discovers the ghosts of his long-dead mother and father (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) residing in his childhood home as if nothing had ever happened to them. Adam’s inexplicable reunion with his parents prompts a series of return visits and conversations, all of which force him to grapple with the loneliness of his life.

They also give him the chance to come out to his parents, which he never got to do before they were lost in a car accident when he was 12. That detail adds a layer of thorniness that makes Adam’s interactions with his parents all the more compelling. A kitchen conversation between him and his mother, for instance, takes a rough, fascinating turn when she reacts to his coming out with responses and ideas tied to the 1980s, the decade she perished. The scene, beautifully played by Foy and Scott, makes it heartbreakingly clear how little their relationship was allowed to evolve before she was torn from his life.

A subsequent scene between Scott and Bell also seems destined to end badly when Adam doesn’t hesitate to call his father out on all the ways he failed him as a child. But then things take a sharp turn toward the cathartic when Bell’s frozen-in-time specter apologizes for ignoring and downplaying his son’s adolescent pain. This moment paves the way for Adam and his parents to start coming to terms with the time they lost.

In a later scene, Foy’s mother discreetly apologizes to her son by singing along to the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of “Always on My Mind” (Maybe I didn’t hold you / All those lonely, lonely times / And I guess I never told you / I am so happy that you’re mine). In another, she and Adam lie in bed and discuss everything they would have done together had they been given the chance, like getting into a fight while on a trip to Disneyland. “Did we make up?” Adam’s mother asks. “We didn’t need to make up. It was enough to know that we got to come home together,” he responds. If the tears hadn’t already started, they’ll be pouring by the time All of Us Strangers reaches these moments.

In All of Us Strangers, the ghosts of our past are just a train ride away.

Searchlight Pictures

All of Us Strangers supplements Adam’s parents with a seemingly unrelated love story between Adam and his neighbor, Harry (Paul Mescal). For much of the film, their scenes of physical and emotional intimacy ground the movie in a kind of sensual materiality, but it isn’t long before Haigh further blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, and past and present. The film’s second half features numerous dreamlike images, like a train window reflection of a younger Adam frozen in a perpetual wail of pain, that visualize the haunting emotions he feels as he desperately tries to find a place for himself in the land of the living.

For many members of the queer community, All of Us Strangers’ story of isolation, loneliness, and eventual freedom will be all too familiar. More than anything, though, it’s the film’s emotional frankness that allows it to land with force. The greatest gift it gives Adam isn’t the chance to see his parents again, but to say everything he’s had to keep bottled up for 30 years. Everyone’s dreamed about speaking to someone they love with the same unbridled honesty that All of Us Strangers’ characters do, and there’s an intense comfort to be found in watching them slowly patch up the wounds that have been hurting them for so long.

All of Us Strangers is streaming on Hulu.

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