Thursday, October 29, 2015
Written, scored, and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, The Others is the story of a woman who lives in a remote home with her two children as they deal a series of odd events as it relates to the people coming into their home. The film is an unconventional haunted house film which relates to a woman and her children, who are sensitive to sunlight, as they ponder what is happening around them as well as those who had died in their home. Starring Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Elaine Cassidy, Eric Sykes, Alakina Mann, and James Bentley. The Others is a spellbinding yet eerie film from Alejandro Amenabar.
Set in the aftermath of World War II at a remote country estate in Jersey in Britain, the film revolves a devout Catholic woman who lives with her two photosensitive children as they hired a new staff at the home where they all deal with some strange things that are happening in the house. It’s a haunted house film that plays into a woman not just dealing with these strange events but doing whatever it takes to protect her children from sunlight. Still, it is no match for these strange events that are happening as the children claim that there’s ghosts in the house. Alejandro Amenabar’s screenplay not only explores the attempt by Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) to shield her children from the light as well as questions about the outside world. She also hopes to instill Roman Catholic faith into them so they can be protected from evil but it’s not enough to deal with the ghosts.
While Grace’s new maid Mrs. Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) knows something is up, she tries assure Grace that nothing serious is happening. Once the story progresses, it is clear that Mills along with the gardener Edmund Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and a young mute named Lydia (Elaine Cassidy) know something that Grace doesn’t know. Even as it alludes to why Grace’s husband Charles (Christopher Eccleston) hasn’t returned from the war. Amenabar’s script also play into the ideas of life after death where Grace’s children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) wonder about their father as well as the surroundings around them. While Anne is convinced that something is haunting them, Grace doesn’t believe it at first until a key moment as it play to who are the people inhabiting the house.
Amenabar’s direction doesn’t play to a lot of the conventions that is often expected in horror or in suspense-dramas. Yet, it does maintain an atmosphere of what is going on in the way Amenabar builds up the suspense while creating something that is dramatic with bits of humor. Amenabar’s direction would infuse some gorgeous imagery into his compositions from his usage close-ups and medium shots to play up the intimacy of the home as well as some unique tracking shots and camera angles to play into the home itself. The way Amenabar would move the camera for certain scenes such as the sounds of children crying and other things which helps play into Grace’s own suspicions and need to tend to her children. Though much of the film is set in Britain, some of the exteriors is shot in Northern Spain as it help plays into the world of the unknown in a sequence where Grace tries to walk to the church miles away.
The direction would also have some eerie moments that blur the lines between what is real and what is not where adding to that air of suspense is Amenabar’s score. While it is largely an orchestral score with string arrangements and a few piano pieces, it help plays into the drama while knowing how to build up the suspense and sense of terror. By the time the film reaches its third act, the terror does reach its apex as well as an astonishing reveal that does add a new tone to the film. Especially as it relate to not just the theme of death but also the concept of the afterlife and eternity. Overall, Amenabar creates a mesmerizing yet intoxicating film about a woman trying to protect her children from ghosts in her home.
Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography for its usage of natural lighting as well as low-key lighting for many of the interior scenes to help play up the lack of sunlight as well as scenes with sunlight as it is one of the film‘s major highlights. Editor Nacho Ruiz Capillas does excellent work with the editing as a lot of it is straightforward with some stylish cuts to play up the drama as well as the suspenseful moments. Production designer Benjamin Fernandez, with set decorators Emilio Ardura and Elli Griff, do amazing work with the look of the sets from the hallways as well as the rooms in the house to play up something that feels like a world that is old as well as out of step with the times.
Costume designer Sonia Grande does fantastic work with the costumes as many of the clothes the characters wear don’t showcase much color as it plays to the look of the film. Visual effects supervisor Felix Berges does nice work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects as it relates to some key moments in the film‘s third act. Sound designer Isabel Diaz Cassou does superb work with the sound to help create an atmosphere for what goes on at the house where it helps play into the suspense as well as some scenes that heighten up that sense of terror.
The casting by Shaheen Baig and Jina Jay is incredible as it features some notable small roles from Keith Allen, Michelle Fairley, Renee Asherson, and Alexander Vince as a group of people who could be the ghosts that are haunting the house. Elaine Cassidy is wonderful as the mute young maid Lydia who is always suspected of doing something while Grace wonders what made her mute in the first place. Eric Sykes is terrific as the gardener Edmund Tuttle as a man who always work outside while also helping Mills do some cover-up into what is really going on. Christopher Eccleston is excellent as Grace’s husband Charles who is missing from the family as he only appears briefly to serve as the one thing Grace is hoping for in her sheltered existence.
James Bentley and Alakina Mann are fantastic in their respective roles as Nicholas and Anne as the two children who deal with ghosts with Bentley as the younger of the two who is more scared over what is happening while Mann provides a showier role as someone who knows what is going on but is also just as scared. Fionnula Flanagan is amazing as Mrs. Bertha Mills as the new head maid of the house who knows a lot about the house as she also knows its secrets which she conceals from Grace. Finally, there’s Nicole Kidman in a remarkable performance as Grace Stewart as this very religious woman who is trying to protect her children at any cost as well as ponder the fate of her husband as it’s a performance of power but also terror where Kidman brings a lot of anguish into the performance which is one of her best.
The Others is a phenomenal film from Alejandro Amenabar that features a great performance from Nicole Kidman. Along with a brilliant ensemble cast as well as an engaging story, a fantastic score, and beautiful visuals. The film isn’t just a riveting haunted house film but also a fascinating study on the concepts of death and faith. In the end, The Others is a spectacular film from Alejandro Amenabar.
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