Harry In ‘All Of Us Strangers’ Explained: Why Does He Knock On Adam’s Door?

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First, I’d like to say, do yourself a favor and don’t read this article if you haven’t seen All Of Us Strangers. If you have seen the film, you can join me in my melancholic solitude. I have (unfortunately) not seen any other Andrew Haigh films. However, I feel the need to emphasize that this film comes straight from his heart. It almost feels like reading someone’s personal diary, and I don’t know anything about this man, except for this film. Despite being based on the 1987 book that goes by the name “Strangers” by author Taichi Yamada, the film feels very present and, at the same time, almost ambiguous in time. I feel this way because, even if conversations are dated, or there are certain things that make it very obvious what year it is, it’s the heart of the story that will always remain the same. I did find it strange that the film was marketed as some kind of epic romance, but maybe that was to completely wrong-foot audiences after getting into it. Still think it was rather rude.

All Of Us Strangers is not a romance film; it’s not even romantic, it’s plain old sad. From start to finish, it has an eerie darkness to it, even in the parts that are bright and yellow, filled with hope, because they’ll be gone any moment, and you’ll be left with your sad thoughts. Paul Mescal is one of the best actors out there today, and with this movie, he really proves it. There isn’t much of a role for him here. In reality, he’s almost just an object of desire for Andrew Scott’s Adam. However, the weight with which he carries himself really puts into perspective how deep this character really is. We don’t always have to hear from someone how sad they really are. 

I suppose if one pays attention, there’s a sense of foreboding when it comes to Harry’s character right as he’s introduced to us. His drunken nature and strange talk, make you feel a little bit uneasy. I think, in some ways, this is for us to leave judgment behind when it comes to Adam and the conclusion of the film. Yes, Adam could’ve possibly saved Harry’s life, but, maybe he couldn’t have. It’s not Adam who pushed Harry off the edge; it was his family. At least we know that Harry was looking for someone to help him back up. While Adam is hesitant at first with befriending Harry, when he meets a sober version of him, he’s more interested in getting to know the guy. I don’t think Harry comes across as pessimistic as such, but there is an air of doom that comes with the way he speaks and carries himself. I mean, of course, just as Adam is isolated from losing his parents to a car crash, Harry is the same because of abandonment. No, the feeling is not entirely the same, and one can’t compare the two ideas. However, pain is personal and non-judgmental. 

While Adam’s point of view is an analysis of grief, Harry’s is that of isolation. Yes, they’re both alone as people, however, Adam knows exactly what to do to get better. He needs closure; his parents died, and he’s traumatized. On the other hand, Harry simply doesn’t know what to do with himself. He’s got a family, but he can’t speak with them; he has the capabilities to find a partner, but he’s unable to do it because internally, he’s ashamed. He probably hates himself for being different. No, Harry did not want to die on that day. We know this because he tells Adam he’s scared when he realizes what’s happened. If Harry wanted to die, he’d have never appeared to Adam, no? The “I see dead people” act only works for those who are floating in their unfinished lives. If we compare the two characters, Adam is lonely because he’s suffered a terrible twist of fate, whereas Harry is forced into social isolation. There’s a massive difference there. Adam feels distressed because he has no one to look for when he’s happy or when he’s sad. He’s got no one to share his achievements with. On the other hand, Harry’s parents have abandoned him. He’s tied down by fear of disgust, I suppose. This is apparent in the way he talks to Adam on that first drunken night. 

I suppose if Adam had let Harry in, it’s possible they may have helped each other. I guess they did do that in the end, but you know what I mean. The intentional age gap between the two characters adds another special layer to the film. I especially love the exchange of dialogue when Adam explains how “queer” was a slur back in his childhood, and Harry says “gay” was that word for him. You see, Adam grew up in fear, whereas Harry grew up in shame. I suppose when Harry says it’ll be real some day (in reference to the fire alarm drills) when he meets Adam for the first time, he’s trying to signal to him that it’s real right now. Everything Harry says in this particular conversation is quite alarming, but it’s something that this generation, in particular, loves to do casually. Adam can’t read between the lines, though, because he’s got his own thoughts to deal with. In the end, Harry wonders why nobody else found him, why his parents never cared to check on him. It’s a week before Adam finds him because he’s been seeing the man’s ghost. Maybe it’s the resemblance between Harry and Adam’s father that stops him from letting him enter. Would it have been some sort of redemption? “I couldn’t save my parents, but at least I got to save this young man?” I don’t think so. It’s simply two parallel sad stories that are meant to rip our hearts out. 

I guess Harry’s actually there to help Adam move on from his grief, to stop living in the past. He could’ve literally been his future. He’s also much younger, bringing newness into Adam’s life. It’s a shame because if Harry were alive, this would be that epic romance we were all expecting. Harry the lifesaver, Adam the saved? Or would it be the other way around? I guess it’s left to us to figure that out. Not everybody loves the quiet, and sometimes noise is all it takes. 


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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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