This adaptation of a 2009 Sarah Waters has a dark ambiguity roiling within it, but the mystery of a Gothic drama is more banal than eerily biting.
The Little Stranger is set in the summer of 1947 as a respected country doctor visits the dilapidated manor of a mother and her two adult children. They happen to be anguished by more than a fading kind of existence.
Lenny Abrahamson (who made the very riveting Room) finagles with the Waters prose along with scribe Lucinda Coxon that retains an interpretative feel and aims to provide some presence to the seemingly cursed Warwickshire residence.
Part of its initial discomfiting nature surrounds a young girl and a senescent woman, separately, as an extinguished blaze can’t ruin the place. But, what’s behind it all, as the girl’s strand apparently isn’t of much importance to the matter at hand.
An undercurrent of trepidation is put in motion but to little avail as Dr. Farraday (Domhnall Gleeson of Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) aims to get to the crux of strange happenings ironically where his mother once toiled as a housemaid. Abrahamson and Coxon are unable to confidently offer more than an obtuse spirit to the proceedings which puts Gleeson and the customarily reliable Charlotte Rampling (Red Sparrow) as Mrs. Ayres in a dim light.
Perhaps what is less beguiling than bewildering surrounds a molding broken off a mirror long ago as The Little Stranger clanks amidst the tattered and thin instead of meting out its anxiety with clarity and firm ambivalence all the way through its final twist.