<I>All of Us Strangers</I>: Editor Jonathan Alberts
December 21, 2023

All of Us Strangers: Editor Jonathan Alberts

Editor Jonathan Alberts has been collaborating with director Andrew Haigh for a decade. The two paired most recently on Searchlight Pictures’ All of Us Strangers, a new psychological drama set in London and starring Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy and Jamie Bell. The film is based on a novel Taichi Yamada and centers around Adam (Scott) and Harry (Mescal) – two men than have a chance encounter in their new and largely unoccupied apartment block.

According to Alberts, production began on June 27th of 2022 and shot for seven weeks. The shoot was split into two main sections. The first two weeks were spent outside of Croydon, UK, on location, in what was once Haigh’s childhood home. Here, the entirety of the story with Adam’s parents (Foy, Bell) was captured before moving to a stage in Wembley for the remaining five weeks. On an LED stage, the production created the interior of Adam’s high-rise apartment, with its large windows and sunlight views. The film’s club scenes were shot at a well-known club in London called the Vauxhall Tavern.  

“We shot on 35mm and telecined dailies at Cinelab in the UK,” Alberts recalls. “On all of Andrew’s films, I travel to the location and work alongside production. In this case, I worked at the stage in Wembley during the final five weeks of shoot while I was putting together the first assembly. By the end of the shoot, I had about a week to finish the assembly before we got started on the director’s cut. The assembly came in at about two hours and 20 minutes. The final film is 105 minutes.”
When her embarked on the edit, Alberts says he didn’t think he’d be cutting for as long as they did.  

“It was about a year of cutting by the time we locked picture,” says the editor. “Unlike other films we’ve worked on, we kept doing small tweaks to the edit through the grade, the mix and finishing of visual effects. We finished a couple of days before premiering at the Telluride Film Festival on August, 31st, 2023. Had you asked me prior, I never thought we’d be cutting as long as we did, but this film was really one that we kept discovering along the way.” 

Alberts says the film presented a number of editorial challenges, including finding a rhythm and economy between the two parallel stories. 

“Adam’s journeys between his childhood home - set in 1987 - and contemporary London. We were not only crossing a temporal bridge on these journeys, but we were moving between the love story with Harry and his re-acquaintance with his parents,” Alberts explains. “How much of Adam’s journey back and forth did we need to show? How much was enough? Will the audience understand this journey back in time, and what visual and audio clues do we need to include to help them understand?

“The entire film takes place within a naturalistic framework, and the character’s never talk about the time periods. We had to find a way to show the rules of the world without completely losing the audience, so those transitions were really important.”

Alberts adds that they didn’t mind creating slight confusion for the audience, if it kept them active within the story and eventually anchored them. 

“All of these thoughts and questions became multiple versions in the cutting room that we experimented with, talked about and debated,” he notes of the edit. “The train footage was pretty run & gun, since there was very little time to shoot, and we ended up catching the scripted sections, and a very few other bits and pieces - beautifully lensed by our DP, Jamie Ramsay. Adam’s journeys to and from his parent’s house kept getting shorter and shorter as the edit moved forward. It was a delicate balance of inclusion and exclusion so as to bridge the two worlds economically without being repetitive. We had to find ways with sound design, music and visual effects to pull together both the romantic love and the familial love stories.” 

Tonally, Alberts says All of Us Strangers took quite a while to get just right. 

“From Andrew and my first meeting on the film, we spoke about tone and what the film would feel like,” he recalls. “Naturally, the sound design and the music would be a huge factor, and working with our composer, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, was a great collaborative experience.  

“Prior to shooting, Andrew shared with me a playlist of music that he listened to during the writing. I then shared a playlist back, which, in effect, was an inspiration of his playlist. From there, I played endlessly with a temp score that was purely electronic, moving between bolder choices and minimal ones.  

“When we screened the film early on with the temp score, people really responded to it, but in some way, it became a bit too ‘big’ for the material,” he notes. “Emilie came in with strong ideas, while at the same time, was completely open to experimentation. As an editor you spend so much time auditioning different cues for scenes, and you’re so intimately familiar with every nuance that at times, you can be quite protective when you open things up to a new collaborator. Emilie really helped to find the tone and widened our canvas for thinking about how All of Us Strangers could feel, bringing both a warmth (analog violns/cellos) but processing them so they felt different, ghostly, even to produce a rich, dreamy sound that aided the narrative.”