The Little Stranger, 2018.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
Starring Domhall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, Liv Hill and Charlotte Rampling.
After a doctor is called to visit a crumbling manor, strange things begin to occur.
The Little Stranger is an odd film that you will either become enamoured with and think about constantly, or you’ll struggle with its slow moving plot and find it frustrating. I luckily fell into the former category when watching this unusual psychological thriller/gothic drama/horror hybrid.
Dr Faraday (Gleeson) is called to visit a decaying mansion called Hundreds Hall. As he arrives he recalls his experiences there as a young boy. Growing closer to the family that includes scarred former RAF pilot Roderick (Poulter) and his sister Caroline (Wilson), he becomes enamoured with the house more and more. Meanwhile strange noises are everywhere and mysterious events occur.
The Little Stranger is the definition of a slow burner. To look at the script there isn’t much that happens and yet it is gripping and unsettling throughout. There were moments that frustrated as it felt like it was plodding along with no sense of direction. But upon reflection all the intricate details that seemed frivolous at the time, are important when looking at this films rich tapestry. An ambiguous ending is frustrating and haunting in equal measure with the themes of the film weighing heavily afterwards.
Adapted from the novel by Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger is an examination of male entitlement, psychosis and female independence. These themes are carried expertly by the films leads, mainly Gleeson and Wilson. Domnhall Gleeson continues to be one of the most exciting and diverse actors working at the moment. His portrayal of Dr Faraday is unnerving in its attempts to portray him as an ordinary man with so much more bubbling below the surface. Ruth Wilson also proves herself adept at captivating the audience with her layered portrayal of the downtrodden Caroline. Will Poulter also delivers as the traumatised former pilot Roderick. Caked under prosthesis to make him look burnt, his abilities still shine through. The only criticism is that Roderick doesn’t appear in the film enough.
Following up Room is no easy feat and The Little Stranger is a more ambitious project from Abrahamson. The subject matter is more ambiguous and although he doesn’t balance the tone perfectly, it’s an excellent addition to his résumé. He films Hundreds Hall from Faraday’s perspective of awe, whilst simultaneously keeping the colours muted. When there are scenes away from the house the colours are brighter and the characters seem more at ease, all except Faraday who longs to return. Hundreds Hall feels like its own character, looming over the events of the human characters. The score from Stephen Rennicks is perfect and the sound mixing by Tim Barker makes the house seem like its groaning and moving in every moment.
The Little Stranger has its flaws, but it’s such an unusual blend of genres and has such good performances that you can’t help but ruminate on it for hours after the credits have rolled.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★