Monday, 24 September 2018

Film: 'The Little Stranger'

Lawks, but I found this a tedious affair! A brooding 1948 tale set in an English rural manor house visited by Domhnall Gleeson as doctor, an ancestral residence too big by far for a mother (Charlotte Rampling) with two adult children (Ruth Wilson and Will Poulter) plus maidservant, all against a portentously unyielding atmosphere with a 'mystery' at its heart which for me was too diffuse to be as gripping as it was clearly intended to be. Throw in a few unpleasantly violent deaths and sporadic effects of a haunting and I came out bewildered in a 'what-was-all-that-about?' fashion, and I honestly don't care to give it much further thought. 
Not tense enough to be 'suspenseful', nor grisly enough to be true 'horror', I assume it goes in the category of 'psychological drama'.

Gleeson, apart from 'losing it' in one short scene, plays the entire drama virtually on the one, unflappable note. Charlotte Rampling is magisterially matriarchal in the way she can always be relied on to deliver. Poulson as the disfigured and injured ex-RAF young veteran is, understandably, humourlessly intense. But Ruth Wilson is the stand-out cast member in the only role here that is full of light and shade. and she does it all credibly well. 

The film is based on one of Sarah Waters' six novels to date, of which I have so far read only the one, 'Fingersmith', and have to say I was impressed with that. Apparently the film of 'The Little Stranger' follows the book quite closely and despite my reservations regarding the film I should like to read it as I'd expect it to get inside the minds of the characters more successfully on the printed page than in this visual version.

Director Lenny Abrahamson, probably best known for 'Room', (2015) draws perfectly capable performances from his cast, however I could have done with less mood-setting music on the soundtrack. 

The film has been generally quite well received. For me it lacked that extra ingredient to make it recommendable, and hence rather a disappointment.................5.

(IMDb.............6.0 / Rott. Tomes..........6.4 )




8 comments:

  1. Apart from Wilson, who like you said is a real standout , it was a bit of a let down though quite beautiful to look at

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    1. I suppose the look of it appropriately reflected the moroseness of the story. Now three hours since I returned home, I think if I'd been in the mood for such a surly tale I might have been more favourably disposed towards the film.

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  2. I went to see The Children Act today. I thought as you did, if you can remember. It was only as the credits rolled up that all was revealed to me (I had forgotten): the film was based on the Ian McEwan novel. It explained everything and why I dislike Ian McEwan's books so much, they are always verging on nonsense stories and endings. Sorry to tell you this here but I won't be writing about the film but wanted to tell you. Thank you for the review of The Little Stranger; I had already made up my mind not to see it after the trailer.

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    1. I'm determined to read more McEwan anyway, Rachel, because he's a recent find for me of someone whose writing I admire so much. Perhaps as I read more of his work I'll come round to your way of thinking. I can already sense what you mean about his endings - though as for 'Children Act' I'll have to read that too to discover if the film's unconvincing late lurch is reflected in the way he relates the tale. However in comparison I felt that this new 'Stranger' film was by some way the greater disappointment of the two.

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    2. The Children Act was such a stupid story I should have remembered it was McEwan. The film might have been better if the boy had been more attractive but I am clutching at straws here. There was definitely something missing that might have made the story more believable.

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    3. I wouldn't go along with your "stupid", Rachel. though as previously discussed, the storyline was wanting in credibility, which might have helped if the boy was one who looked as if such a learned woman as the Thompson character could have fallen for.

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  3. Since you're talking McEwan, I'd like to join the conversation and tell you that I took your recommendation and read "Amsterdam." I found it to be a slightly dark, compelling, well-written novel. Would I read another McEwan novel? Most definitely! Also, "The Children Act" - I have watched it twice and considering buying it digitally for my collection.

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    1. Pleased that you're another McEwan admirer, Paul. I'd better start catching up on those I haven't read before he outruns me.
      You know that I generally did like the film of 'Children Act' but I'm a bit mystified by your exalted opinion of it. Makes me want to give it another go to try to discover what I missed first time round, something I doubted I'd ever say.

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