Adam In ‘All Of Us Strangers’ Explained: Why Does He See His Dead Parents?


All of Us Strangers may not have been everybody’s favorite gay movie of last year; however, to me, it was one of the saddest for sure. There’s a sense of dread throughout the film, and although it’s somewhat predictable, it doesn’t make the end any less poignant. I suppose one could debate that this film makes it seem as though growing up gay is every bit as horrifying as losing one’s parents. Personally, I think the experiences could be equally isolating. Adam isn’t lonely because he doesn’t have a partner; he’s isolated in his thoughts of the past, of the time he spent with his parents, happy or not. Honestly, when I started this movie, I felt I didn’t have the emotional intellect (yeah, I don’t think that’s a real thing, but you get what I mean?) to grasp the true depth of All of Us Strangers. Yes, it’s aesthetically stunning, and the dialogue is subtle but hilarious and equally hard-hitting, but in the bigger picture, it’s not something that I can really relate to. Don’t get me wrong, a movie doesn’t have to be relatable to be fantastic; in fact, we’re usually escaping reality through movies; however, this seems to be a very personal film, and I felt underprepared to watch it. 

What’s reassuring, though, is Andrew Scott’s incredible performance as Adam. Yes, this man deserved a seat at the best actor nominee table, but I digress. In an interview, he said that as an actor, one needs to feel like a child and let go of all inhibitions to do their job because their work is play. I honestly saw this translate through this character perfectly. Adam is a forty-something-year-old man who lives alone in a building with almost no other residents, and I guess this is the bit that most young people can relate to. Isolation in an urban setting. Adam’s loneliness stems from his own behavior, and he knows it. He never tries to befriend his one neighbor, and the day the guy shows up at his house, he shuts the door in his face, but somehow it makes sense, no? Why should my door be open to others when they’re not really open for me? Okay, I’m not a literary genius, so what I’m trying to say is that the reason Adam doesn’t let Harry in is because he’s just failing to understand himself, and it’s just too much work even spending a little bit of time with someone else. 

What Adam is searching for is not answers; he’s only looking for his parents to reply. Yes, Adam never got over his parents’ deaths. He was too young and asleep, and they died without saying goodbye. This is important because we get there at the end of All of Us Strangers. The reason he’s revisiting them is not because he wants to address everything he didn’t get to with them as a child, but because he never got to say goodbye. You see, if Adam had simply seen his parents before they died, maybe said he loved them, then he may have never wanted to revisit them in such a manner. He wouldn’t have been alone, because he would’ve given that space in his heart to someone who deserved his love. The reason he revisits the difficult moments with them is because it would simply help him get the closure he needs around their deaths. I guess this is why it isn’t a coincidence that Adam starts to visit his parents just after meeting Harry. Yes, he’s meant to be writing a script inspired by his father, but he’s also trying to make room for Harry because there’s definitely a part of him that doesn’t want to be alone forever. 

I suppose it’s Adam’s wishful thinking that takes over then, because honestly, who doesn’t want to tell their parents how they’ve grown up? You know, for most, there is a joy in simply seeing your child become an adult, and that’s exactly what we’ve realized with Adam and his parents. Yes, he’s gay; it’s something they can’t really understand because they’re stuck in the 80s, but he’s also a scriptwriter who lives in London, as they’d have imagined. 

Of course, what his parents can’t understand is why he’s so alone. What’s got him so stuck? In Adam’s head, he believes his parents need closure too, which is why they’re able to talk to him right now. Otherwise, he’d surely have seen them as aged up, no? Adam is trying to deal with his shame too. While the most hurtful part of the film is watching Adam say goodbye to his parents, it’s also how much has changed over the years, but somehow the seclusion remains the same. What I mean by this is, I suppose, Adam’s experiences could’ve been the same as Harry’s. In his dream sequence, Adam gets a warm hug from his father and reassurance from his mother, despite her not knowing how to react (this was quite the scene, really). When he tells them he’s gay, however, it’s highly probable they could’ve disowned him and cast him out to the periphery like Harry’s parents did. All Adam really wants is to move on, and the only way he can do that is by having a happy ending with his family. 

So, would it have been any different if Adam was a straight man? In all honesty, I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take away from his experiences as a gay man growing up in the 80s, but what I mean is that he’d still be trying to communicate to his parents the things that he might’ve thought would disappoint them. Despite getting it all out of the way, the only way for Adam to “move on” is to actually say goodbye. He protects his parents by telling them that their deaths were quick and painless because, right now, he’s the adult in the equation. He’s got 30-something years of more experience, and he’s also older than his parents were at the time they died. Something that’s just as heartbreaking on its own. I guess what I’m trying to say is that none of this can really help Adam feel less alone. What’s worse is that Harry is actually dead, and the worst part is watching Adam try to find companionship in their relationship when, in the end, you realize he was never there. I suppose imagination is a person’s best friend because, as a scriptwriter, it’s Adam’s creativity that helps him deal with his sadness for real. Maybe it’s right when they say work is your best distraction. 

What I love about All of Us Strangers is how subjective it is, and what I might’ve seen as loneliness, someone else may see as liberation. This isn’t really a conclusive essay; it’s just a collection of my thoughts on this melancholic character who I feel for and understand despite our many differences. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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