Date: 11 November 2001
The Others provides hope that there is still room in mainstream cinema for the old-fashioned virtue of the slow, subtle, Hitchcockian chiller. Admittedly the writer and director, the Spanish newcomer Alejandro Amenábar, is clearly not part of the Hollywood establishment, but its star, Nicole Kidman, certainly is, as is co-producer, her estranged ex-husband, Tom Cruise.
Kidman beautifully underplays the lead role, a young women struggling to care for her two children in an enormous fog-laden manor in the Jersey Islands towards the end of the Second World War, waiting in folorn hope for the return of her husband. Kidman manages to manages to create an air of vulnerability combined with a quiet madness which may or may not be an effect of the strange noises in the house and the arrival of three slightly dodgy man-servants (including a creepy Eric Sykes as the gardner). The two children are cursed with aversion to light, hence the whole house has to be kept in a state of permanent darkness, creating a powerful claustrophobic effect and allowing for lots of jangling of big keys. The dialogue is stark and simple and for a while it feels like a fairy story is being told (the large number of children giggling in the audience didn't help here), however, the film's 'twist' is a lot twistier than the average and leaves you with a number of interesting ideas to contemplate. Despite its apparent simplicity, The Others dips its fingers in to issues of death, religion, truth, the afterlife and madness with a very light and subtle touch. It is also very heart-warming and actually a good film to take the kids to, especially given the charming earnestness with which the two child stars perform. The frown of the young boy, fearful of every nook and cranny of his overwhelming abode, touches something deep inside, but also makes you laugh a lot.
There are no monsters, blood, screaming, fights, special effects or nasty weapons in The Others; yet it still manages to create a very nice level of fear and confusion in the audience. Let the trend continue.
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