‘The Others’ is a film I hadn’t really heard about until my partner picked it out at our local DVD store. She recommended it with the highest praise and said it would be right up my street in terms of genre and style. As a pair, we love our films dark, mysterious and as unnerving as possible, so it looked from the outset that ‘The Others’ would be perfect in that regard. Having said that, I’m not entirely convinced by my partner’s track record when it comes to choosing films, so I was secretly reserving judgment until I got round to watching it. But credit where credit’s due, this was a fantastic, thought-provoking and interesting take on what, on the surface, seemed like a very familiar horror film.
Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) is a struggling single mother, with her husband, Charles (Christopher Eccleston), away fighting in World War Two. Her cause is not helped by the fact that her two children, Anne (Alankina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), are both allergic to sunlight. As a result of this very rare illness, their home must be devoid of sunlight, with the only source of light coming from oil lamps dotted around the house. When three strangers, led by Mrs Mills (Foinnula Flanagan), turn up on Grace’s front door and offer to work as servants to Grace and her children, their help could not be more welcome. However, their sudden appearance coincides with a series of inexplicable events occurring around the house and Grace soon begins to fear that their arrival may have aroused some unwanted, supernatural visitors.
As I said previously, this is a plot that sounds all too familiar, predictable and somewhat tedious. That could not be further from the truth however, and I was more than pleasantly surprised when watching the film. Unlike most horror films, it isn’t completely predictable in any respect. I had no idea what would become of our protagonists, I had no idea who the servants were and I certainly did not predict the mind-blowing twist at the end of the film, which explained everything perfectly. Up until the moment of revelation at the end of the film, I truly had no idea how all the events of the film tied together, and that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I was constantly working out potential conclusions and explanations in my head, and whilst I managed to cotton on to some hints, this is a film which will certainly keep you guessing up until the end.
It was different to other horror films I’ve seen in other aspects too. Of course, it had your conventional features like dark rooms and corridors (conveniently justified through the children being allergic to sunlight), gothic sets and costumes, doors opening by themselves, a cemetery visible from the bedroom window and a fair share of jumpy moments. However, none of these overused and stereotypical inclusions felt tacky or unnecessary in any way; it was really cleverly done. I wouldn’t say this film is overly scary either, and whilst that was a positive for me, it may be a negative for others. I say it’s a positive not because I’m easily scared but because it allowed certain other aspects of the film to come to the forefront to be appreciated.
An example of which is the acting displays. Initially, I wasn’t convinced by Nicole Kidman’s performance, or that of her on-screen offspring, but as the film progressed they really seemed to grow into their roles and by the end (helped by knowing the twist), I am happy to say that everyone did a really good job. Grace is a complex character and I thought Kidman performed every aspect nigh on perfectly. She is commanding and dominant, whilst possessing a clear fragile quality and an unstable mind. The children were infuriating to begin with (a trait this film had in common with a lot of horror films). Anne was particularly annoying, but Akalina Mann’s portrayal became more and more convincing and chilling as the film got into the narrative. Even if you haven’t seen this film, you’ve probably seen that scene with Anne in a wedding dress surrounded by mirrors, and that was the standout moment for me in the film, owing a lot to Mann’s performance. Foinnula Flanagan’s performance of Mrs Mills was also brilliant, as was her character. At no point could I pin down whether I trusted her or not, and a complicated character like that demands a strong performance, which Flanagan duly delivered.
A film that I was initially a little hesitant in watching turned out to be one of my favourite films that I’ve seen recently. I was initially sceptical because the plot and the idea seemed so familiar, but this was really enjoyable viewing. Solid acting performances and an immersive and compelling plot, ‘The Others’ is certainly one I will be recommending to those who haven’t seen it. I guess I’ll also have to start trusting my partner’s choice in films more often, but we’ll keep that a secret for now.
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Foinnula Flanagan, Alakina Mann, James Bentley