“Everybody’s got a relationship with a parent, even if it’s that they had no relationship with their parents,” says actor Andrew Scott. “Everyone’s got a relationship with the idea of themselves, if they have children. Everyone’s got a relationship with grief, even if it’s not actual grief through death; grief manifests itself in many different ways. And so people see themselves in this film.”
We’re talking to Scott about his new movie, All Of US Strangers, which sees a 40-something-year-old man, Adam (played by Scott) visit his childhood home, only to find his deceased parents (played by Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) living there, and they’re still the same age as when he last saw them.
The story is written and directed by British filmmaker Andrew Haigh and is inspired by the novel Strangers by Japanese author Taichi Yamada, which was first written in 1987 and translated into English in 2003.
Haigh changed the screenplay to something more personal to him, not only setting the story in England, but also swapping the protagonist to a gay man and exploring themes of sexuality as well as love and death.
Adam’s journey to his parents begins after he meets and falls and love with his neighbour Harry (played by Paul Mescal), and as the relationship develops between them, Adam is preoccupied with memories of the past and finds himself drawn back to the suburban town where he grew up.
When he finds his parents in his old house – being around the same age as he is no less – Adam is able to explore some of the unsaid things he never got the chance to say before his parents shockingly died in a car crash when he was a child, including his sexuality.
All Of Strangers is so personal to Haigh, that the movie is shot in his real childhood home – he went there while looking for a location for Adam’s childhood home and knocked on the door, just like Adam does in the movie.
And Haigh isn’t the only one who felt an attachment to the script… “I felt immediately connected to it,” nods Scott. “I felt like, ‘I know how to play that character.’
“The beautiful thing about Andrew’s screenplay… I was so moved by it and one of the reasons that I immediately recognised it was something that I feel, which is the accidental cruelty of families,” Scott continues. “That based on true love, we say things to our families that are brutalizing and make your family members feel unseen and you feel angry with them. And it’s the working through of that that I think is so beautiful because for a lot of people in the Adam situation, when they come out, it’s not about necessarily outright rejection and nor is it about full-hearted embracing. It’s somewhere in between. I think that’s an experience for a lot of gay/queer people and people in the LGBTQ+ community.”
In fact, Haigh’s script resonated with all of the movie’s small cast, including Jamie Bell, who plays ‘Dad’ in the movie: “I grew up without a father, so it’s interesting just playing a dad and being a dad; I’m a father to three small children,” Bell explains. “When I read the script, it was a horrifying concept for me to consider if my children were my age and I was my age and we were discussing what their life was like and what kind of a parent I was and how I treated them. And where I failed them and what complexes I gave them.
“I thought, ‘What an unbelievable, scary but fantastic opportunity that would be as a parent.”
Though Bell and Claire Foy (who plays ‘Mum’ in the movie), are of a similar age to Andrew Scott, they say they had no problem taking on the parental role and creating a family dynamic.
“We all have a very similar sort of energy in a way,” says Foy. “I knew Andrew Scott very well before, so I was already totally in love with him – as every human being who ever meets him is. That was very, very easy for me.”
Since the traumatic moment his parents die in a car crash, Adam hasn’t really been able to find a genuine connection with someone else, and when we first meet him as an adult man, he’s living in a modern, desolate-feeling, apartment.
“With Adam, you find him in a sort of purgatory space where he isn’t able to fully move on,” Scott explains. “He’s sort of stuck. I think part of that is because his development or some part of his growth as a person has been curtailed at a very particular point.
“In order for him to love himself, like a lot of people – not just gay people, but people in general – you need to be seen by your parents.”
When Adam gets the unbelievable and fantastical chance to speak to his deceased parents, they navigate their way through Adam’s sexuality, who he has become as an adult and parental mistakes.
For Foy, she believes the movie gives audiences a chance to reflect on what they might want to say to their loved ones.
“This film teaches you that life is too short to not say what you want to say – even if it hurts someone’s feelings,” she ponders. “Even if, you know, you feel like you might not be heard. Either you know you’ve said it or you’ve offered someone something by saying something.”
“I hope that as much as it’s about romantic connection and parental connection, I really hope that people go home and hug their kids,” Bell adds. “I know that sounds so hokey and ridiculous, but I think it’s worthwhile remembering that time is fleeting and I think that more than anything now is the time for connectivity between us – and that’s what this film is really all about.”
All Of Strangers is out in cinemas now. Read the SciFiNow review here.