Starring: Domhnall Gleeson (PETER RABBIT , GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN , BROOKLYN , Harry Potter DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1  and PART 2 , and upcoming films THE KITCHEN  and STAR WARS EPISODE IX ), Ruth Wilson (HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES ), Charlotte Rampling (RED SPARROW , THE SENSE OF AN ENDING , ASSASSIN’S CREED , and upcoming films VALLEY OF THE GODS  and BENEDETTA ), Will Poulter (MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE , DETROIT , THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER , and the upcoming MIDSOMMAR ), and Josh Dylan (MAMMA MIA 2 ).
Director: Lenny Abrahamson (ROOM )
Screenplay: Lucinda Coxon (THE DANISH GIRL )
Composer: Stephen Rennicks (ROOM, and the upcoming ROSIE )
Cinematographer: Ole Bratt Birkeland (AMERICAN ANIMALS , and the upcoming JUDY )
Editor: Nathan Nugent (DISOBEDIENCE  and ROOM)
I’ve never read the book, so I have no idea what I’m getting into, and I have no idea how faithful it’s going to be. As it stands, this movie is toting itself around like it’s a horror film, and while I certainly see where it’s trying to come from, the trailer still makes itself out like a simple psychological drama. It looks like it’s got ghost elements, but I wonder if this is going to be a little too similar to PERSONAL SHOPPER in the sense of the supernatural elements playing very little into the overall narrative. I don’t know, I’m not completely sold on it, and based on early ratings, I shouldn’t be. Still, I am a growing fan of both Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter, who have both churned out great performances before, and Rampling certainly does add a touch of class, so I remain hopeful that the acting is at least passable.
This is my honest opinion of: THE LITTLE STRANGER
Set in the late 1940’s. Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is a skilled doctor who has just been called to the Hundreds Hall estate, belonging to the once-wealthy Ayres family, who are now in slow financial decline. Turns out, Faraday has some history here, as his mother used to work there as a maid and was invited to the estate for a party when he was a child. After looking on the family’s only maid, the young Betty (Liv Hill), Faraday strikes a budding romance with Caroline Ayres (Ruth Wilson). Over time, however, it appears that the owner of the estate, Caroline’s disfigured brother Roderick (Will Poulter) believes that there’s something in the house that hates him and his family, making Faraday believe that the man is crazy.
False advertising up the ass, man! Oh yeah, full disclosure, this movie is not a horror film. It’s a romantic drama with a creepy edge to it. I said it, the marketing team can fight me on this. But does that make this a good or bad movie? No, it does not. With that said, it’s not a good movie. Not because it’s a falsely advertised rom-dram, but because it’s dull.
I’m actually going to start with the positives, as I think there are some notable ones.
I have very limited knowledge on who Ruth Wilson is, but after this movie, I kinda want to see more of her. Truth be told, she’s got this resting bitch face that I absolutely adore and want to see her in a movie where someone sacrifices a virgin to her, or something, and she bathes in the virgin’s blood. You know, stuff I’m sure she does every Tuesday night. I’m kidding, but she’s a really awesome actress. Despite being of a higher social class, she’s open about being romantically linked to a man beneath her. She’s a smart and practical woman, but fiercely loyal and loving to Roderick and her mother (Charlotte Rampling). And Wilson herself is… man, I have no idea. This is the only thing that comes to mind:
Every moment she’s on screen, I’m sucked in. I’m hanging on every word and focusing in on every emotion. Ironic, as I wouldn’t be able to quote a line from her because, well, the script is the cinematic equivalent of Wonder bread, but from the somber and miserable woman just trying to keep her family together, to the sexually repressed and smiling dancing socialite, Wilson nails everything.
But enough about my newfound crush (she’s British; what kind of defenses does a man like me have against that?), Wilson isn’t the only scene-stealer. If anyone truly owns the first quarter or third of the movie, that would have to be Will Poulter. For one thing, THIS DUDE’S ENGLISH??? I mean, of course I knew that, but he so rarely plays one. It’s like, bro, you’re leaving me speechless. Is it obvious that I have a thing for British folk? Anyway, Poulter plays Roderick who is horribly disfigured, likely burns all over his body and walks with a limp, a leg that is in constant pain. I especially enjoyed the scenes when Faraday is using his machine to deaden the pain some and in one scene, walking around a little easier. Not without the limp, but he seems to be subtly enjoying himself. Despite his unfortunate circumstances, the man still looks like he’s standing like a giant. In control, responsible, a bit of a drunk and certainly paranoid, but he’s still a compelling character that I wish had more screen time.
However, the compliments kind of stop here.
As previously stated, the movie is dull. Yes, a couple of the actors are great for what they have to work with, but that doesn’t excuse the material itself from being stale. A ton of this movie’s marketing is centered around the horror aspects. However, many of these supernatural things don’t make a true appearance until much later in the film and it’s honestly not even truly made clear if that’s what they were, but I’ll get to that in my spoilers section.
How about the romance between Faraday and Caroline? While Caroline is a compelling character in her own right, Faraday is not. I mean, sure, nice guy who’s always visiting the Ayres to care for their sick and miscellaneous affairs, and I do admit to enjoying the structure of the relationship and how it takes its time to blossom, but there’s just not much to the character himself. He ogles the house that he remembers as a kid, he gives Caroline love-stares, and that’s about it.
But if he’s not being a hollow character, the movie rectifies this in a terrible way later on where he becomes overbearing and kind of a dick-weed. Yup, there’s scene where he and Caroline are at some kind of fancy-shmancy ball and Faraday’s character takes a nose-dive harder than that fictional girl from Matt Damon’s hilarious speech from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Suddenly, Faraday gets jealous when he sees Caroline dancing with another man, or talking to another female friend. This trait comes out of freakin’ nowhere, and all because some other dude in the room is all like, “Make you move, homie!” From there, it’s sexual frustration that he can’t put his dick in her when she rejects his advances, practically forcing her marry him without a firm yes from her, forcing her to contemplate when they get married… in the middle of the night… after having been creepily staring at her for God knows how long… not even a day after her MOTHER COMMITTED SUICIDE FROM SLITTING HER WRISTS!!! How… delightfully charming of him. Real panty-dropper, am I right, ladies? While I can definitely appreciate that Caroline is quick to tell him that she’s not going to marry in the next scene, it doesn’t save Faraday’s character.
Overall, there’s quite a lot more to tackle, but I don’t quite have the energy. The movie could have been a lot better. As is, it’s a stagnate romantic drama with very little in the way of horror, or even proper suspense. Sure, the movie is shot very well, and the set designs can be darkly beautiful to look at, as well as the splendid performances by both Wilson and Poulter. However, the story as a whole is very slow and ultimately not interesting and that’s the consistent problem that anchors the movie down from being any good. As a recommendation, I say skip it. It’s barely worth a rental. It’s not the worst movie ever made, but it’s not worth your time.
My honest rating for THE LITTLE STRANGER: a weak 3/5
This week’s reviews:
- OPERATION FINALE
- LET THE CORPSES TAN / LAISSEZ BRONZER LES CADAVRES
- YA VEREMOS / WE’LL SEE
Next week’s reviews: