The Little Stranger
Director: Lenny Abrahamson.
Lenny Abrahamson, director of highly acclaimed and award winning, The Room; A film I didn’t really like, found hard to watch and even harder to review (yet to do so), but understand the appreciation for it entirely, and Frank, a film I have yet to watch; does a visualisation of Sarah Waters fifth titular novel that was first published in 2009.
A chilling ghost story set in the rural English countryside post the Second World War, actually challenging the affects the war had on society in its aftermath. How even the great british gentry wasn’t immune to such a tragic period of European history.
The narrative follows a Dr. Faraday (Gleeson), a local and recently appointed Doctor from a modest background, who appears to be both impressed and attracted to the aristocracy of Warwickshire’s high society. In particular Hundreds Hall, a grand mansion owned by the Ayres family to which he’s called out to, to attend to their poorly maid. But Dr. Faraday has a personal connection with the manor, and whilst his intentions are never quite clear, there’s something quite strange about the house that keeps us intrigued.
Faraday befriends the remaining family of Mrs. Ayres (Rampling), her son and terribly wounded war veteran, Roderick (Poulter), and her doting daughter, Caroline (Wilson); who’s not exactly your typical, dignified lady of nobility. An awkward platonic relationship blossoms between the doctor and Caroline that almost sidetracks the entire storyline but gives us glimpse of Faraday’s deeper character until something in the house makes its presence really known.
Cannot fault the performances, but I found it difficult to relate or even empathise with the characters. The nice Dr. Faraday seems to have his own agenda and there’s more than a few glimpses of a nastier, selfish side to him; as if spellbound himself. The pacing is slow, and not for tension building purposes, but for character and story development, that’s really drawn out; but not unexpectedly so. There’s just enough intrigue to keep your attention, but not enough to really ignite curiosity to want to know more or even suspect.
There’s a lot more going on with the story at first glance, touching on the class division and how socialism and the gentrified society of rural England was affected after the war. But with the dullness and dragging pace, you start to care little, especially with the majority of the cast, in both leading and supporting capacities playing unlikeable characters. I feel like I missed something of the plot here, but kinda makes sense in the end, probably allowing the audience to decide for themselves with what little details are afforded to us, but I feel the story has been dropping hints throughout and from the onset.
As with the performances, I can’t fault the production in any case. The design, wardrobe and score all work very well to create a convincing period drama piece. The sound is superbly done, especially towards the finale. But as a whole piece, it’s incredibly dull which left me with a bland and forgettable taste.
Maybe it’s Abrahamson’s style I have difficulty with, as I did with Room. Maybe it was the combination of this and the actually story, but I can imagine the book being ultra creepy. Not saying this isn’t, because it certainly has its moments, but it’s a long wait for most of them and there’s not enough to even warrant this as a horror.
Running Time: 4
The Cast: 6
Job Description: 3
The Extra Bonus Point: 0