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Review: The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger
4 10

PLOT: When an idealistic doctor arrives at a deteriorating manor, he becomes infatuated with the mysterious woman living there, as well as the mansion itself.

REVIEW: As an admirer of ghost stories and sweeping gothic romances, THE LITTLE STRANGER appeared to have everything one could desire. The Lenny Abrahamson (ROOM, FRANK) directed feature seemed to have all of that and then some judging from the trailer. The cast is certainly impressive, with Domhnall Gleeson in a leading role, and Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter and the legendary Charlotte Rampling playing part of a wealthy, but mysterious family. Yet something is lacking in this visually striking tale. As gorgeous as it can be, and as good as the cast is, this stranger is a much too predictable and frankly, lifeless and forgettable story.

the little stranger domhnall gleeson lenny abrahamson ruth wilson charlotte rampling will poulter josh dylan thriller 2018

Domhnall Gleeson is Dr. Faraday, a young and talented doctor who is summoned to visit a home he had admired even as a boy. Once he arrives, he meets both Roderick Ayres (Poulter) and his sister Caroline (Wilson). After spending some time at the manor, Caroline asks the good doctor to look at her brother, who suffers from burns and deformities. Meanwhile, the good doctor begins to have memories of visiting the house at a very young age, and a young girl who used to live there. The young girl was the sibling to Caroline and Roderick, and their mother, Mrs. Ayres (Rampling) seems to have lost her way ever since her death. The once vibrant mansion is now a hollow and haunting place of loneliness and sorrow. Can Dr. Faraday bring life once again to Caroline and her family? Or is there something else far more insidious going on?

If you’ve seen the trailer to THE LITTLE STRANGER, you may expect a very classic ghost story. Yet if you are going for that reason, you will be disappointed. This is not a ghost story. The only hint of a haunted house tale doesn’t arrive until well into the second half of the film. And from there it is barely touched upon, and when it does, it feels like an afterthought. Instead, the focus is on the romantic relationship between Faraday and Caroline. Thankfully, the gothic romance is one of the strongest elements of the film. If only the balance between the two was handled better.

Both performances from both Ruth Wilson and Charlotte Rampling give this incredibly slow moving tale a bit of light. Ms. Rampling is a marvel, and no matter the film, she brings class with everything she does. Still quite a stunning beauty, she gracefully hides her sadness and horror of her crumbling life brilliantly as Mrs. Ayres. As for Ms. Wilson, the actress is perfection. As a woman who has spent her life in the miserable and lonely manor, she brings something truly special to Caroline. Both are sublime, and watching the very talented Gleeson play off of the two powerful women is nearly worth the cost of admission - well, perhaps you'd be better off waiting for Netflix.

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For this veiwer, the biggest issue facing THE LITTLE STRANGER - aside from the imbalance of ghost story and gothic romance - is the fact that it is just plain dull. Even the romance treads along until finally we realize something is rotten in Denmark. And by that time, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to what’s to come. At times, this feature feels as old and empty as the manor in which is takes place. This is not just a slow burn, it is far too precious to really connect to horror fans, and not quite romantic enough to really resonate with fans looking for another WUTHERING HEIGHTS - a far better mix of ghost story and dark romance.

If you are looking for a classic ghost story, you can find many others that do it much better than THE LITTLE STRANGER. It’s a shame because all the pieces are here. Perhaps it is the script written by Lucinda Coxon - based on the novel by Sarah Waters. Having not read the novel, there is a possibility that they tried too hard to remain faithful to the source material. Either way, this is an impressive failure for this viewer. It certainly doesn’t work as a ghost story, and the gothic romance tale fares only a little better. Strangely, it is one that would be interesting to re-watch with the full realization that the haunted house aspect is wasted. Maybe then one could appreciate the more palatable aspects of this gothic thriller.

Source: JoBlo.com

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