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REVIEW — “The Little Stranger”

It’s a weird one

The Little Stranger is directed by Lenny Abrahamson, written by Lucinda Coxon, and stars Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, and Charlotte Rampling. Based on the novel of the same name, it tells the story of Dr. Faraday, who travels to Hundreds Hall, home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries. The Hall is now in decline, and its inhabitants — mother, son and daughter — remain haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life. When Faraday takes on a new patient there, he has no idea how closely the family’s story is about to become entwined with his own. Every year, a trailer comes out that is incredibly misleading. Last year audiences left It Comes At Night and mother! angry, not getting what they were sold. While I very much enjoyed those films, they were sold as disturbing horror films and ended up being very intense dramas. I’m sure at this point you can see what I’m getting at. This is not a horror film, but it’s still really good! The Little Stranger is a slow, methodical, beautifully shot gothic drama with compelling performances from all its cast.

Lenny Abrahamson is directing him and I’ve been a fan of his work in the past. I really enjoyed Room and Frank was pretty interesting, so I was already interested to see what he did next. So when I saw this was such a big departure in tone for him, I was very excited to see what he had done. So how does he do? A pretty good job. While this isn’t a big scary masterpiece like I would have hoped, Abrahamson clearly knows what he’s doing behind the camera. He takes his time with The Little Stranger, maybe too much time. I would have loved this to be a bit more exciting, but everything here is done with such skill and precision, that I can’t complain. This is definitely a film, and while I’m not gonna be rushing out to see it again, I’m definitely glad I saw it.

Lucinda Coxon penned the script here and while I can’t speak for the accuracy of the adaptation, she does a pretty solid job here. There’s a lot going on here and a lot is left up to interpretation, so I won’t be surprised if many walk away from this very frustrated at the lack of answers Coxon gives us. We’re left in the dark for most of The Little Stranger, it takes a while before it really shows us any of its hand, and I’m not sure if it really knows what genre it wants to be. I would be interested to read the book to see if it shines a bit more light on the questions I have regarding the ending, but let’s be honest, I forgot how to read years ago.

The cast here all do a pretty great job, and while no particular performance absolutely blew me away, I was thoroughly impressed with all of them. Domhnall Gleeson does a very good job, as usual, playing a very restrained and somewhat frustrating character. I’m always happy to see him and never disappoints. Ruth Wilson and Charlotte Rampling both give very fine performances, playing very haunted and broken people. Will Poulter also does a great job here. It’s been really great to see him build a very solid and respectable career for himself and I can’t wait to see what he does next. Like I said, everyone here does a great job.

On a technical level, The Little Stranger shines. While it doesn’t quite top First Reformed, this features some of the best cinematography of the year. Every shot is like a painting and I adored looking at it. The score is also fairly interesting. It’s not overbearing or bold, it somewhat sneaks into scenes and leaves unnoticed. The editing is sharp and the sound design is very refreshing for a “ghost movie”. There are no jump scares of violin screeches, it’s just normal everyday sounds. Everything here is very well done and nothing stands out as amateur.

So, in short, while The Little Stranger was not what I expected, what I got was a very well shot, masterfully told tale of grief and class. 3.5/5

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