Film Review: THE LITTLE STRANGER (UK/ France 2018)


The Little Stranger Poster

After a doctor is called to visit a crumbling manor, strange things begin to occur.


Lenny Abrahamson


Lucinda CoxonSarah Waters (novel)

THE LITTLE STRANGER is a gothic supernatural horror drama directed by Lenny Abrahamson (best known for the sleeper-hit HOUSE) and written by Lucinda Coxon, based on the novel of same name by Sarah Waters.   THE LITTLE STRANGER is a different type of sleeper – one of the slowest moving films of the year a sort of THE SLOW AND THE FURIOUS.

The subject of the film is Dr. Faraday,  As a small boy, he was fascinated by Hundreds Hall, even stooping so low then, to stealing while entering the grounds.  Grown up now, Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is a country doctor.   During the summer of 1947, he tends to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked as a housemaid.   The Hall, which has fallen into decline, is home to Mrs. Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) and her two children, Caroline (Ruth Wilson) and Roddy.   After taking on the new patient, Dr. Faraday finds the Ayres family’s story will soon become entwined with his own.  ‘The house does not like us.’

Director Abrahamson appears fascinated with the English countryside, thus making it his priority to create atmosphere instead of gothic mood.  The scenes are often dimly lit with natural light, and he is fond of scenes set during dawn when the sun first begins to appear.  If there is light in the house, it is usually in the background, so that the figures in his images are only often silhouetted.  All this is fine as the film looks great, thanks to his cinematographer.  But with atmosphere, the film is stuck in the mire of looks, as if unable to burst it out of the story it so wishes to tell.

The film feels at many times wanting to burst back into the past through flashback but only seldom does.  Most of the part is revealed through dialogue and musings.

Characters come and go as fleeting as the morning dew.  The film could see more of the story’s most interesting character, Roderick (Will Poulter), the facially disfigured war veteran being treated by Faraday for PTSD symptoms.  Not much is revealed of Carolyn’s sister or the origins of the dark forces that could be inhabiting Hundreds Halls.   Roderick mysteriously disappears after a third through the film.  Though set two years after World War II, nothing is ever mentioned of the war, safe for the Roderick character.

The feeling of ‘it could be or it could not be supernatural” is always sustained.  In many films, this tactic creates more mystery but in this film, it creates more annoyance with the feeling of indecision as to where the film is heading to.

Gleeson as Dr.Faraday appears stoic and sleeping walking through his role.  Rampling does her usual ‘there is something odd about this woman’ character.  The romance between Faraday and Carolyn unfolds so slowly, it feels non-existent, though one might argue that that was the purpose in mind.

For the few scary or death scenes, the audience is always warned that something is  going to go wrong from the dialogue.  “What can happen in the nursery?”  or “There is something in the house that frightens me.”

THE LITTLE STRANGER ends up with more period gothic atmosphere than genuine scares.


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Goodbye Christopher Robin Poster

A behind-the-scenes look at the life of author A.A. Milne and the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories inspired by his son C.R. Milne.


Simon Curtis


There is one scene that sums up Simon Curtis’ film on the life of author A.A. Milne and the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories inspired by his son C.R. Milne.  It is the one where father, A.A.  fondly called Blue (Domhnall Gleeson) serves his son fondly called Billie (Will Tilston) porridge he had made as the nanny has the day off.  Billie lifts his spoon to reveal a real lumpy porridge.  That is exactly the way director Simon Curtis (MY WEEK WITH MARILYN) has served his film and it is going to go down lumpy down the audience’s throats.

The film, however, does open impressively with shots (cinematography by Ben Smithard) of the beautiful English woods with sunlight beaming down the trees and spreading among the flowers, pretty much like the pictures of a Winnie the Pooh children’s book.  Blue receives a letter from the postman, the wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie) looking on, obvious that the letter brings bad news of the death of their son who has gone off to fight in the War.

The film tells the story of Blue’s creation of Winnie the Pooh and how the fame aversely affected the family especially the impressionable child Billie.  Blue goes to war and comes back with shell shock.  His evil wife Dafne, insists he keeps writing and he eventually lies it and takes the whole family to live in the country.  Evil wife gets upset ,leaves and threatens never to return unless the husband writes again.  Father and son bond in the woods and father creates Winnie the Pooh (the name Winnie coming from the rescued bear from Winnipeg, Canada).   The boy, Billie also appears in the Pooh books and known as Christopher Robin.  Fame and publicity prevents the boy from playing and having a normal childhood.  Confrontation results between husband and son (now played by Alex Lawther).  Amidst all this is the cheerful nanny, Olive (the wonderful Kelly Macdonald) who can never do any wrong.  She gets to tell the parents off and to calls the evil mother a horse in her face.

As the film is not based on a book, one wonders where all the material for the story comes from.  One can surmise that a lot has been imagined by the scriptwriters Frank Cottrell-Boyce Simon Vaughan.  The film turns into sentimental mush at the end with the news of the son’s death.  Dad, mum and Olive are grieving and more lumpy mush again when it turns out when Billie shows up.  The father son reunion is neither credible as well.

Robbie and Gleeson sport silly English accents.  At least Macdonald, the only one worth watching in this silly enterprise gets to keep her Scots accent.

The film has one believe that Winnie the Pooh did wonders for world peace just because one soldier fighting in the trenches hummed a Pooh tune.

The film ends with old photographs of the real characters in the film followed yes, by old photos of the real toys of the bear tiger, piglet and all.  As if the film is not sentimental enough.



Happy Birthday: Domhnall Gleeson

domhnallgleeson.jpgHappy Birthday actor Domhnall Gleeson

Born: May 12, 1983 in Dublin, Ireland

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