Movie Review: The Little Stranger
This week we are reviewing a film that is not necessarily a brand new release, but it did find a limited release just a week or so ago. The Little Stranger is the latest directorial project from Lenny Abrahamson, the director behind 2015’s acclaimed feature, Room. It was adapted from Sarah Waters’ novel of the same name by screenwriter Lucinda Coxon. This gothic horror film stars Domhnall Gleeson as Dr. Faraday and Ruth Wilson as Caroline Ayres. The small supporting cast is also comprised of Will Poulter, Charlotte Rampling, Josh Dylan, Liv Hill, and Oliver Zetterström.
The film begins with a country doctor named Dr. Faraday being called to Hundreds Hall, an 18th century estate, in the late 1940’s. He is there to treat the maid, Betty, who is not actually ill but just unsettled by the house. The house is dilapidated and the family is in great financial difficulty after the effects of World War I and World War II. Faraday explains through voiceover how majestic the house once was and how he had been admitted into the house once as a boy. Through this visit to Betty, Faraday befriends one of the family members, Caroline, and also begins to help her brother Roderick through some of his injuries from the war. As time passes, Faraday becomes more familiar with the family, but everyone’s sanity is questioned when strange things begin to occur in the house.
I can go ahead and admit that I did not love The Little Stranger immediately, but as time passes, I think that it is actually a brilliant film. I, personally, would not classify it as a horror film because I did not find it that scary, but it is definitely in the gothic genre. The movie is tension filled throughout most of it, and I can honestly say that it has a creepy overture until the very end. It is a slow burn, but in my book, that is not necessarily a negative thing. From the beginning scene, the ornamental yet dilapidated state of the house puts the audience on edge and instinctively lets you know that something is not right. This feeling is, of course, aided by Stephen Rennicks’ score, which is subtle yet unsettling.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this movie, though, is how the story keeps you guessing until the very end. While it might be slow moving, it definitely demands for you to pay attention. The psychological warfare is superbly executed and leaves the audience wondering if the characters are actually insane and what part the house plays in that. It’s a cerebral story, and at the end of the film, you can look back and see how the director strategically placed clues the entire time about what was actually happening. The story itself is an interesting commentary on social classes and the impact of them on individuals. It also touches on this universal human need to be loved and accepted. As I stated earlier, I find it to be incredibly brilliant upon reflection and might even sneak it into my top ten at the end of the year.
I will wrap this review up by saying how excellent the performances were throughout the entire movie. Honestly, everyone delivers on their characters, but Dohmnall Gleeson is the standout from the film. He is extraordinarily creepy and understated, yet somehow he makes Faraday relatable in his best and worst moments. I will also caution that there are some gruesome sequences. The Little Stranger did not receive a wide release, but I still have to recommend it for anyone who is able to find it in a theater nearby. It is intricate, unsettling, and psychologically mind boggling, but for anyone who loves a gothic drama with horror elements, I would say The Little Stranger is worth a watch.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.