Friday, 11 January 2019

The Little Stranger (2018)

"Beautifully Chilly Gothic Thriller"

I think thriller is the best non-specific way to describe this one. There are plenty of other terms I could use but whether or not they're appropriate will very much depend on your own interpretation of it. THE LITTLE STRANGER is an adaptation of a novel by Sarah Waters and the director, Lenny Abrahamson, is probably best known for his 2014 picture ROOM. It's getting a UK DVD release (but not Blu-ray for some reason) from Fox.

A couple of years after the end of World War II, Dr Faraday (Domhnall Gleason) arrives to take up a partnership post in a quiet general country practice. Before long he is called to Hundreds Hall, where his mother used to work as a maid for the Ayres family. He finds the house close to ruin and the family in decline, scarred by both the war and bad fortune. But is there something else in the house that may turn out to be even more threatening to the Ayres than either? 

It's difficult to discuss much about THE LITTLE STRANGER without spoiling it, but I will say that you're very much left to make up your own mind with this one. There's the suggestion a ghost might be haunting the house. About halfway through I came up with my own explanation for everything that had been happening, one that didn't involve any ghosts at all, at least not in the traditional sense.

What I can say is that THE LITTLE STRANGER is very much about the British class system. We learn that Faraday visited the house as a boy, and there's a poignant moment where he points out the slightest hint of his arm on a photograph, the rest of him obscured by one of his 'betters'. There are plenty of subtle allusions to what Faraday's 'place' in society is considered to be, but the ending was sufficiently ambiguous as to what has actually happened it made me want to watch it again to see if my own theories held water. 

       Fox's disc comes with a commentary track by Lenny Abrahamson, who has his own ideas on what he was trying to convey. You also get a behind the scenes featurette and a trailer.

THE LITTLE STRANGER is a beautiful film, beautiful in terms of its measured study of the decay of the aristocracy after the war, the elegantly drab locations, and some strong performances from its leads (including Ruth Wilson as the daughter of the Ayres family and Will Poulter as her battle-scarred brother). Just don't expect it to all be resolved at the end. 

Lenny Abrahamson's film of Sarah Waters' THE LITTLE STRANGER is out on UK DVD on 
Monday 14th January 2019

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