All of Us Strangers Tops the BIFAs

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers (2023)

Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun swept the British Independent Film Awards last year with seven wins, and on Sunday evening, Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers matched the score. Both films happen to costar Paul Mescal, who shares this year’s Best Supporting Performance honor with Shaun Thomas, who plays the only truly empathetic young man in a pack of predators in Molly Manning Walker’s How to Have Sex. Best Lead Performance went to Mia McKenna-Bruce, who stars as one of three teenage girls on holiday in Crete in Walker’s film, which also won Best Casting (Isabella Odoffin), and back in May, the Un Certain Regard Award in Cannes.

Haigh (Weekend, 45 Years) won Best Director and Best Screenplay for his adaptation of Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel, Strangers. Andrew Scott plays Adam, a blocked screenwriter who gradually allows himself to fall in love with a mysterious younger neighbor, Harry (Mescal). “There are striking levels of intentionality, vulnerability, and desire in their dynamic, superbly realized by Scott, rueful and pensive, and Mescal, puppyish and volatile,” wrote Ben Walters for Sight and Sound last fall. In search of inspiration, Adam has been taking trips to the house he grew up in, and there, he’s reunited with his parents, who appear not a day older than they were when they died in a car crash thirty years ago.

Adam’s mother (Claire Foy) and father (Jamie Bell) “are loving and decent but not inclined to question or reshape their world, let alone recognize its capacity to harm their son,” wrote Walters, who found that the “story’s magic-realist structure enables an almost dreamlike dramatization of the unconscious turmoil such conditions have generated for generations of queer children like Adam: these people, my straight parents, are my best hope of love and support, and also apparently incapable of understanding and nurturing me as I actually am.” All of Us Strangers also won Best British Independent Film, Cinematography (Jamie D. Ramsay), Editing (Jonathan Alberts), and Music Supervision (Connie Farr).

In Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping’s Femme, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay, winners of the award for Best Joint Lead Performance, play, respectively, a drag artist and his gay-bashing lover. Femme is a “noir-ish, revenge-porn romantic thriller,” writes Ellen E. Jones for the Guardian, and it “doesn’t just feature transformative performances, it’s also about the role of performance in our lives.” Femme also won BIFAs for Costume Design (Buki Ebiesuwa) and Makeup and Hair (Marie Deehan).

Winners of two BIFAs on Sunday include Alice Russell’s If the Streets Were on Fire (Best Feature Documentary and the Raindance Maverick Award), Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavares’s The Kitchen (Production Design for Nathan Parker and Best Effects for Jonathan Gales and Richard Baker), and Raine Allen-Miller’s Rye Lane (Breakthrough Performance for Vivian Oparah and Original Music for Kwes). Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall won Best International Independent Film and Savanah Leaf won Best Debut Director for Earth Mama.

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