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Home / News / Director Andrew Haigh talks All Of Us Strangers

Director Andrew Haigh talks All Of Us Strangers

All Of Us Strangers is the much-hyped, latest project of British filmmaker Andrew Haigh, best known for the acclaimed 2011 romantic comedy Weekend (2011) and 45 Years (2015).

It’s a story of familial and romantic love, blended with a ghost story. Starring Andrew Scott as struggling writer Adam, the film blurs the lines between reality and illusion as he ventures back to his childhood home, where somehow, his parents are still living – both the same age as when they died over three decades prior when Adam was 11.

Paul Mescal co-stars as Adam’s neighbour, with whom he forms a deep intimate connection.

The film is an adaptation of Strangers by Japanese novelist Taichi Yamada, who died late last year. I’m curious if Haigh was able to have a conversation with him about the film and his plans for it, or did the language barrier knock that possibility on the head?

“I never spoke to him but the producers spoke to his family,” he says. “The film is a pretty big shift from the originally novel – there’s no queer love story in the novel – it’s about a heterosexual couple. It’s much more of a ghost story in a traditional sense.”

“But I know he got to see the film – he was in hospital at the time, he was 88 I think. He wasn’t able to talk at that point but his family said he watched it and as far as they know, he seemed like he really was happy.”

“It’s really sad…” he says, musing on the timing of his death coinciding with the film’s release. “I think it’s been a strange time for his family – they lost him this year but at the same time, the film is coming out.”

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal on the red carpet at the gala screening of All Of Us Strangers in London

The main character in the film, Adam (played by Scott) suffers the sudden and almost unimaginable loss of both parents prematurely. While viewers might wonder if Haigh went through a similar experience, he responds, “I haven’t lost my parents but I’ve always been obsessed by loss – I think it’s always been something that I’ve fixated on.

“Even if you haven’t lost your parents, you’re going to lose them – my dad’s not well and he’s not going to be around for that much longer, so you’re always aware of that,” he says.

“I’ve been very aware of death… I’m always constantly thinking about it – I’m not sure what that says about me…” he laughs, “And even with parents who are still alive, we all have that understanding that if we went back, and we could speak to them again… and we could know them a little bit better and they could know us a little bit better, that lots of things might be different.”

A detail in the film that adds to the intrigue is that one of its main settings, the suburban house where Adam’s parents live, is in reality, the childhood home of Haigh himself. He lived there until he was nine.

“It’s really interesting to me how many people find that really fascinating. I’ve been in Q&As and it’s mentioned and you hear the audience gasp! And I’m surprised – I didn’t think it would be such a big thing.”

Reflecting on what it was like to return to the house over 40 years later, he says, “For me, it was… a little bit painful and emotional and odd and surreal and strange… I think it speaks as to why the film works for people. We can’t help but think about our childhood and be drawn back to our childhood instantaneously.

“Sometimes in our mind, we can suddenly be back somewhere when we were six, or seven or even younger… I had memories of being two and three [there].”

The current house owners allowed the house to be redecorated to how it was in the ’80s – and the personal connections don’t end there. A prominent photo shown near the star of the film, supposed to be Adam as a child with his mother, is actually a photo of Andrew himself with his own mum.

“There’s a lot of stuff that is now on the screen that is… part of my childhood,” he muses.

Jamie Bell, Andrew Scott and Andrew Haigh at a BAFTA screening of the film in New York last November

On what his parents make of this deeply personal project, he says, “My mum has seen it and it’s challenging I think for her,” but, “she loves it and has seen it three times”.

“She lost her mum when she was young, so I think she also watches it on two levels – she watches it as someone who’s lost a parent when she was young, and also as someone who has kids.”

He admits that he broke out in eczema for the first time in decades being back in his childhood home, saying, “It’s so weird – it all started to come up in the same places I got it as a kid.”

“I think your body keeps in all of that stuff you’ve had in your life that’s happened to you… whatever traumas big and small… that live in us. And for some weird reason being back there, it sort of came back again.”

“Or there was some sort of mould in the walls that’s still there 40 years later,” he jokes.

All Of Us Strangers leaves the viewer mulling over the film and its illusions for a long time after watching it. What message or feeling would Haigh like audiences to leave the cinema with?

“It is just about the importance of love… if you come out of this and want to be nicer to your partner that night, or call your mum, or ask your friend that question you feel you should have asked them… then I think that’s a good thing.”

Acknowledging that the film is a tearjerker, he says, “There is something so cathartic about crying… and especially in a cinema, to do it with strangers.

“Someone was telling me last night… that they were at the premiere and they sat with someone they didn’t know. That person was crying and they comforted that person – but they don’t know each other,” he says, smiling.

“It’s kind of beautiful that two strangers sitting in the cinema are having a connection with each other through watching a film.

“I feel like that is what you want – it’s a film about connecting and being understood and being known and vulnerable, and I think people bring their own vulnerability to it.”

All Of Us Strangers is in cinemas now.

Click here to read our review of All Of Us Strangers

Watch our interview with Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal

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