Rated: R for language, some sexuality and nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 27, 2016 Released by: Magnolia Pictures
Some life-altering lessons are felt and experienced in this flawed, if occasionally taut British thriller from David Farr (writer of the small-screen The Night Manager and the Saiorse Ronan/Cate Blanchett drama Hanna).
It's relative to parental psychosis and delusion in The Ones Below without the expected polish or nicety given Farr's strong theatrical background which gives the impression of the influence of Hitchcock and Polanski on this material set in leafy North London. At least it doesn't go the over-the-top route, at least in what passes for current horror tropes.
A rawness is felt in the character of mother-to-be Kate (French model and actress Clemence Poesy of In Bruges, 127 Hours, and in the Harry Potter movies) who has just moved in the upper half of a duplex with husband Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore).
In Farr's screenplay with a studied prevailing eeriness, there's a reluctance for the yuppie couple to socialize with their new downstairs neighbors until Kate learns of the similar expectant motherhood of seemingly congenial Finnish Teresa (Laura Birn). They'll become close friends and Kate will invite her and her imposing financier husband Jon (David Morrissey) up for dinner. Which goes from frictional to tragic as viewers will not only recall Rosemary's Baby, but later The Hand That Rocks The Cradle when a character goes to visit a deceased loved one.
The filmmaking seems to do better by Kate and Justin than Teresa and Jon in terms of credible interaction, deception to name two, with Kate's point-of-view offering a more palpable conflict and distortion of reality. More emoting is required from Morrissey and Birn with the use of shadows to communicate their nature instead in trusting in the subtlety they can bring to the roles.
Nonetheless, the performances don't really hamper the overall effect of a surprising, stylish psychodrama albeit too stagy and offbeat for its own good to excel in this medium. And, Farr in his own workmanlike way shows he has the ability to surpass the artifice which limits the small-scale nature of ultimately could have been an excitingly edgy exercise with enough ambiguity to do the old masters proud.
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