All of Us Strangers is an intriguing romantic drama film with enough suspense and thrill added to the fore as well. It can be argued that the plot, which features a lonely man named Adam befriending and falling in love with a neighbor, Harry, in his empty apartment building, is perhaps not as enticing. However, the filmmaking style and the soft but resolute narrative make it an exceptional watch. Overall, All of Us Strangers is a film to be experienced, from the beautiful cinematography to the convincing performances.
Plot Summary: What is the film about?
All of Us Strangers features Andrew Scott as Adam, a lonely writer living all by himself in a lavish London apartment, often irked by the loud alarm sound blaring throughout his building, possibly from the lower floor. Knowing that hardly anyone other than himself lives in the entire apartment building, Adam sometimes goes out on the road to look up at the building and check which other apartment is occupied. The film begins with scenes from one such night, as Adam follows his usual routine and sees the figure of a man staring down at him from an apartment in the building. Adam does not care about it, though, and he simply returns to his house, trying to continue the screenplay he has been writing for quite some time now. However, there is a knock on his door soon after, and as he opens the door, Adam is rather surprised to see a man standing in the hallway.
This is the same man who had been looking at Adam from his flat, and he introduces himself as Harry. Adam and Harry are truly the only two occupants in the entire building, but they have never made acquaintance before. Despite spending his days all by himself, Adam is a loner by choice, and he does not try to make friends anymore. Thus, when Harry asks to come in and have a drink, he is truly taken by surprise. Harry immediately mentions how tough it is to live in the building, surrounded by loneliness and silence, and he wants to make friends with Adam over a bottle of expensive Japanese whiskey that he has brought along. However, the protagonist is too shy and awkward to make friends with his neighbor, and he turns Harry away as politely as possible. The neighbor returns to his own apartment on the lower floor, dejected and drinking the alcohol all by himself.
The next morning, Adam is back to his writing when he decides to take a break and visit the suburbs, where he has grown up. As he takes a bus and then meanders through a park, he sees a man at the place and immediately starts to follow him. It is evident that Adam knows the man, and when they finally talk, it becomes clear that both know each other very well. The man takes Adam back to his house, where his wife is also delighted to see the protagonist after a long time. But the situation turns extremely suspicious for the viewers when it is revealed that the couple are actually Adam’s parents, who have not aged at all and who had died in a car accident thirty years earlier.
How does Adam finally bond with Harry?
After returning from his long trip from the suburbs, Adam once again runs into Harry, this time in the elevator of their building. The neighbor now apologizes for his behavior the previous night, and he once again offers Adam a drink, which the protagonist again denies. Finally, on the third day, when Harry comes knocking on the door once again, Adam lets him in, and the two get properly acquainted with each other. Both the men are queer, although Adam prefers the word gay, and the two become friends very quickly. They open up about the struggles of being homosexual, especially with their parents, who are not very supportive of their choices. During this conversation, Adam also explains why he does not have any friends around, as the very few ones he had earlier in life are all now settled with their own families and have moved away from the busy London life as well. They gradually get intimate, and thus begins a close bond between Adam and Harry.
After a few more similar sessions of chatting and lovemaking at the apartment, they go out for a night of partying at a club, and it is here that they first take drugs together. Adam had a habit of smoking weed, while Harry earlier mentioned that he had stayed off alcohol for some time, but he had also brought some ketamine, which the men take together. This has a nasty effect on Adam, as he has a horrific hallucinatory episode, slightly growing jealous seeing Harry dance with another younger man, and then having another imaginary conversation with his parents. When Adam wakes up, seemingly helped by Harry, he has to return home by taking a train, and throughout this journey, he keeps seeing Harry only for a few seconds before he disappears.
Given the actual occurrence in the rest of the film, it is quite evident that Adam and Harry’s relationship in All of Us Strangers is much like the most ideal romance for Adam, which is too good to be true, unfortunately. The men are two lonely neighbors, isolated from the rest of the world when in their apartments, and this does seem like a safe thought for Adam. He mentions how he has had to deal with internal and external dilemmas and struggles with regard to his homosexuality, and at this point in life, perhaps he does not want to be open about his preferences to the outside world either. Adam maintains his distance at first, is basically swooned by Harry, and only then gives in to the bond. Their time together is enjoyable to both, not only because of their romantic interest but also because of their ability to get over the depressing loneliness. However, Adam is also terribly afraid of losing Harry or any such friend he is able to make, and this is why the train journey back home is all the more excruciating for him.
Why does Adam keep meeting his parents?
While the first instance of Adam meeting his parents, who look the same age as him, perhaps because they had died thirty years ago, seems like a bizarre incident, All of Us Strangers has numerous such meetings throughout the duration. One simple way to look at the matter is surely to consider that Adam has the ability to see and communicate with people who have passed, but that takes the film’s understanding to a different corner. Instead, what seems more probable to be the actual situation is that Adam keeps imagining these meetings and conversations, and all of them take place inside his own mind. The man had been writing a screenplay about his own childhood, making proper character sketches of his father at the time when he suddenly ran across him in the park. Adam’s childhood was also marked by a terribly sad incident, as he had lost both his parents at the tender age of twelve.
Therefore, he never got the chance to have the numerous conversations and discussions with his parents that people generally have throughout their stages of growing up. These conversations have the possibility of being both positive and negative, and instances of the latter often lead to grievances and misunderstandings. In a similar way, Adam also seeks out this whole range of reactions through his imaginary conversations, and it is possible that he has been doing this for a long time. In fact, he does admit to having fictitious dialogues with his parents during his teenage years, after their deaths, but this particular experience of seeing the parents living naturally at their old house, having extensive meetings with them, and sharing meals is definitely a new practice for Adam.
Out of the conversations that he has with his parents, the one that sticks out the most is surely about his homosexuality, as he comes out to his mother. Adam keeps the patience to explain to her what being gay in the modern world means, how he can get married and have kids if he wants to, and how they are no longer socially persecuted like before. Of course, he does give a slightly more pleasant description of society’s acceptance of gays in this regard, but his intention is to let his mother know that he is at peace. However, the mother cannot accept the fact her son is gay, and this leads to a rather awkward situation, with the woman refusing to eat her food even. As the whole conversation, and therefore the dilemma, is imaginary and inside Adam’s mind, it becomes all the more clear that he yearns for the difficult situations with his parents as well.
Having lost his parents at the mere age of twelve, Adam has not been able to have any of these experiences, and so he keeps desiring them, to the point of making them alive with his creativity. It is to be remembered that he is a writer, after all, and making non-existent individuals talk and seem alive is an important part of his profession. But in the conversations with his parents, there are also instances of them regretting certain decisions or even wanting to know how things panned out after their deaths. In one intense scene, Adam’s father apologizes to his son for not intervening and helping him deal with bullies at school. Towards the end, both parents wish to know how exactly they passed and whether it was painless. All these instances poignantly suggest that Adam has been tightly holding on to his parents’ memory, and in his mind, they still exist, even if they are ghosts or reflections.
Adam feels that his parents must have regretted their old decisions, and so he now imagines wholehearted apologies from them. The man ultimately learns to deal with his grief through all these experiences, which is why, in the final meeting with his parents, they tell him about how he must move on from their memories. This is also when the parents disappear, and for the first time in his life, Adam has accepted his fate in a genuine sense.
Does Harry die?
While All of Us Strangers is developed in a certain direction for the most part, with Adam coming off as an extremely creative and imaginative protagonist, the ending of the film takes an even stranger turn. When Adam returns to his apartment building, he goes to Harry’s flat to check with him for the very first time and finds it unlocked. Walking further into the place, he notices a severe stench before finally seeing Harry’s body lying dead on the bed, even having started to decompose. He is shocked to make this discovery, and it is revealed that Harry has actually been dead for quite a few days. The shirt on his body and the Japanese whisky bottle make it clear that the neighbor had actually died on the very first day that he had gone up to Adam’s apartment, seeking company and friendship.
Harry had been suffering from severe mental struggles, a major reason for which was the extreme loneliness he had to deal with in life and at the building. His suicidal tendencies are also evident from his casual statements about the building being jump-proof, and the alarm being a serious one some day. When Adam also turned down his approach, the man possibly drank and took drugs beyond the limit, leading to an overdose that killed him. Therefore, the meetings and interactions that we see Adam having with Harry, except for the very first one, were all imaginary as well. But such is Adam’s mental state, as a result of his solitary life, that he continues to see Harry even now, as the man cannot really fathom the fact that he is actually dead. When Adam had earlier taken Harry to meet with his parents, the latter saw the house as empty, until a scene made it seem like he could finally see Adam’s parents inside, even though they were dead. This was possible because Harry, too, was a figment of the protagonist’s imagination at the time, and so the scene played out in a manner in which Adam imagined it to be. After all, if he did indeed take any boyfriend over to the house to meet his dead parents, he would react in the same manner, and so Harry had run away from the place, too.
All of Us Strangers‘ ending shows Adam lying beside Harry (the imaginary one, or maybe the dead body) and comforting him, which is heartbreaking to see. Adam had finally been able to move over the grief of losing his parents, and yet he is stuck once again with a character he hardly knew and who had already passed away before there was any significant interaction between them.