movie film review | chris tookey


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  Others Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
7.85 /10
Grace: Nicole Kidman , Mrs. Mills: Fionnula Flanagan , Anne : Alakina Mann
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Directed by: Alejandro Amenabar
Written by: Alejandro Amenabar

Released: 2001
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 104


We're in the Channel Islands towards the end of World War II. The initially unsympathetic heroine is a young, austerely Catholic mother called Grace (Nicole Kidman). She is raising her young daughter and son (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) in a cavernous Gothic mansion while she awaits the return from the war of her husband (Christopher Eccleston), who is missing, believed dead. Three mysterious servants (Fionnuala Flanagan, Eric Sykes and Elaine Cassidy) arrive and seem like the answer to Grace's prayers. Her principal concern is that the two women care for her children, who are allergic to sunlight. To that end, she demands that curtains must always be drawn in the rooms where they are, and that doors to those rooms must remain locked. The new servants are weird, bordering on spooky, but things weren't right even before they arrived. The previous set of retainers left suddenly, without explanation. And the daughter has visions - first of a little boy named Victor, then of a wizened crone, then of a man and woman… We, like Grace, don't see them at first, but we seem to glimpse them out of the corner of our eyes, and we certainly hear them. Who, or what, are these intruders?

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Kidman turns in a mesmerising and beautifully judged psychological study that transcends the horror genre, and carries this into the realm of tragic drama. Those who look beyond movie stars should also note the name of the film's Chilean writer-director-composer Alejandro Amenabar, one of the brightest talents to emerge in cinema since Kidman's previous director (in Moulin Rouge), Baz Luhrmann.
The Others is a reminder of the days when a first-rate director could make an audience yelp with communal terror without the aid of expensive special effects, slashing blades or gallons of gore.
Like all the best directors, Amenabar makes the audience imagine things that are worse than anything he can show. Don't be lulled into a sense of security by the 12 certificate. This one is really scary, all the more so if you have a fertile imagination.
It creates the kind of very English, understated yet spell-binding unease that pervades the masterpieces of those two doyens of supernatural fiction, M.R. James and Algernon Blackwood.
The master of cinematic mystery and suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, would have admired, and probably even envied, the first-rate writing, camerawork, design, editing and acting. The Others makes other recent efforts at horror - even such successes as The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense - look crude.
The director skilfully plays with our worst fears and blithest certainties, by making the audience see different points of view at different times. The little boy doesn't want to see the intruders, and reminds us of a time when all of us were too frightened to look under our bed, and convinced there was something nasty hiding behind the curtains.
The little girl accepts the intruders as a fact of life, and she is resentful and rebellious when her mother punishes her for lying. She wants to make the intruders appear, to show that it's not she who is going mad.
Most of all, and increasingly, we identify with Grace's fierce determination to protect her children. We share her stoicism turning to fear, and fear turning to panic, as her old certainties collapse and the terrifying fact emerges not just that her children are telling the truth, but that everyone else is concealing it…
Kidman rightly attracted rave reviews, but Fionnuala Flanagan is also excellent as the housekeeper, expertly steering a course between homely helper and Mrs Danvers-style harbinger of doom. The previously inexperienced child-actors are wonderful, too; and, in an unaccustomed serious role, Eric Sykes as the gardener adds a kind of world-weary quirkiness, which keeps the audience guessing as to just how well-meaning, or profoundly sinister, the new servants really are.
We live in a supposedly ironic, post-modernist age, where even children often appear unshockable, so it's refreshing to see a movie that still has the power to make our spines tingle, and the hairs on the back of our necks stand on end.
The scene when Kidman enters a room where all the furniture is shrouded in white sheets is sheer perfection, and requires nothing more hi-tech than a roving camera and a fine actress to create an atmosphere of almost unbearable terror.
Even more importantly, there is in this movie a cumulative power, a mounting dread reflected in Kidman's increasingly pale features and terrified eyes. Masterful pacing rises to a memorably outrageous conclusion that may beg a few logical questions about the veil that divides the living from the dead, but undeniably packs a punch. The final, tremendously sad, powerful image must rank with the great ones of recent cinema.
There are not many classic films about ghosts. Until this, the best were probably Jack Clayton's The Innocents, Robert Wise's The Haunting and (if you stretch the notion of ghosts a little) Hitchcock's Rebecca. The Others is a work of equal skill and intelligence, with a central performance that's as good as any there's ever been in a thriller. This deserves to be called a modern classic, and if you let it creep into your subconscious it could stay with you for a lifetime.

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