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Nominated for Nothing: Why the power of love couldn't compel “All of Us Strangers” to Oscar nods

Andrew Scott broke our hearts in "All of Us Strangers," but the movie couldn't get any Oscar love.

They were destined to score zero Academy Awards, but they won our attention throughout a year (and awards season) like no other. Ahead of the 96th Oscars ceremony on March 10, Entertainment Weekly is breaking down the year's best movies, performances, and directorial achievements that were nominated for nothing.

The film: Writer-director Andrew Haigh (Looking, Weekend) has always had his finger on the pulse of contemporary LGBTQ+ storytelling and the queer experience, but All of Us Strangers sets a new high bar. The contemplative, dreamy drama follows Adam (Andrew Scott), a gay man who shares a massive apartment complex with one other resident, Harry (Paul Mescal). When Harry and Adam strike up a connection, it spurs Adam’s memories of his late parents — played by Claire Foy and Jamie Bell — as he imagines conversations they never got to have after they died in a car crash when he was only 12.

The film is a love story, but more importantly, it’s a meditation on identity, childhood, and loss. Adam grieves his parents, but he also mourns their inability to know him as an adult gay man — to see him as who he always was and who he has become. He imagines coming out to them and the path toward their acceptance while also reliving memories of his childhood. The film is a story specific to Adam’s sexual identity, but it’s also a universal tale of the always-changing animal that is grief.

<p>Chris Harris/Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures</p> Andrew Scott in 'All of Us Strangers'

Chris Harris/Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Andrew Scott in 'All of Us Strangers'

Scott earned raves for his melancholy performance and his quicksilver ability to transform himself into a child of different ages purely through his acting choices. He made the rounds at all the major awards season events and did heaps of interviews, but he still largely missed out on nominations outside of the Golden Globes and Spirit Awards. Though they received even less awards love, Bell and Foy both turn in remarkable performances as parents out of time and space fumbling through their earnest efforts to love their son. Haigh was also in the adapted screenplay mix for his take on Taichi Yamada’s novel but never quite broke through. And while he isn’t as central or as flashy as Scott, Mescal is also riveting.

Why it wasn’t nominated: To be honest, this one is a real head-scratcher. The film is perhaps a bit more poetic than strictly linear, which simply doesn’t connect with some filmgoers. Not to mention, Scott is widely beloved in the industry and put in the WORK on the awards circuit (we’d like a collage of his snazzy suits this season). But he was also snubbed for his brilliant work in Fleabag by the Television Academy, so go figure.

All of Us Strangers also could've benefitted from a release date that didn't bury it near the end of December — it had a successful festival circuit run, so why not get it in theaters sooner and maintain the momentum?

From a strictly financial perspective, one could argue that Searchlight didn’t invest in All of Us Strangers’ campaign as much as they did for Poor Things, which secured 11 Oscar nominations. Often, smaller studios (or indie branches of bigger studios) don’t have the biggest budgets for FYC campaigns and they have to put their money behind what seems to be connecting most with voters (in this case, it was Poor Things, not All of Us Strangers). Poor Things is arguably a more provocative and wildly stranger film, but it does center on the coming-of-age of a conventionally attractive young woman.

Searchlight Pictures Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in 'All of Us Strangers'
Searchlight Pictures Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in 'All of Us Strangers'


Which brings us to the possibility of a grimmer truth: Despite massive strides in the industry when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation on screen, sometimes the Academy can still seem, well, homophobic. At best, they seem to only get excited about films related to the AIDS crisis (bonus points for straight actors playing AIDS victims. See: Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club). Famously, Brokeback Mountain lost out on Best Picture to Crash, still widely considered one of the biggest, most frustrating Oscar upsets of all time. At the time, pundits blamed older voters who didn’t want to vote for a gay love story. Nearly 20 years later, we would hope the Academy would be past that. But maybe the power of queer love still just isn't enough.

<p>Searchlight Pictures</p> Jamie Bell, Andrew Scott, and Claire Foy in 'All of Us Strangers'

Searchlight Pictures

Jamie Bell, Andrew Scott, and Claire Foy in 'All of Us Strangers'

Why history will remember it better than the Academy did: Like so much of Haigh’s work, All of Us Strangers is an essential entry in queer cinema. Not only because of the sensual, heartbreaking love story at its center, but also because of the ways it distills the challenges of a particular generation to straddle the line of Gen Z’s openness and acceptance with the more closeted, repressive upbringings they endured. Scott’s Adam is actively trying to find his place, caught between the more unapologetic model of Harry’s sexuality and his loving, if lacking childhood.

Through the lens of sexuality, All of Us Strangers unpacks the primal need to be better understood by our parents, while also acknowledging that sometimes love is the best they have to offer. Grief is a thorny subject for filmmakers, in part because it’s such a unique and personal experience for each of us. No one mourns in exactly the same way (and that’s not even accounting for what society deems the “proper” way to do so). All of Us Strangers is deeply affecting in its melancholy, its intricate study of the furrows and sense memories of grief. The bruise it leaves on viewers’ hearts should linger long after this year’s Oscars.

EW's countdown to the 2023 Oscars has everything you're looking for, from our expert predictions and in-depth Awardist interviews with this year's nominees to nostalgia and our takes on the movies and actors we wish had gotten more Oscars love. You can check it all out at The Awardist.

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