The Little Stranger

Review by Hannah Woodhead @goodjobliz

Directed by

Lenny Abrahamson

Starring

Charlotte Rampling Domhnall Gleeson Ruth Wilson

Anticipation.

Lenny Abramson always seems keen to push himself as a filmmaker.

Enjoyment.

Cold in all the wrong ways.

In Retrospect.

We know everyone involved in this film can do better.

Despite an impressive cast, Lenny Abrahamson’s gothic ghost story never quite manages to deliver the desired chills.

Perhaps the only thing that British people love more than complaining about the weather is a lavish period drama. Television or cinema – we’re not particularly fussy, just as long as the homes are stately, the accents clipped and the time period anything but contemporary. Lenny Abramson’s The Little Stranger follows in the footsteps of ‘The Woman in Black’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ in being a successful gothic novel adapted for the big screen. Sarah Waters’ book garnered critical acclaim as a sharp and atmospheric mystery, but something has been lost in translation.

Dr Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) travels to the dilapidated Warwickshire mansion Hundreds Hall in 1947 to aid the troubled Ayers family, consisting of Angela Ayers (Charlotte Rampling) and her two children, RAF veteran Roderick (Will Poulter) and Caroline (Ruth Wilson). Following his stint in World War Two, Roderick is disfigured and suffering from PTSD, which leads Faraday to the family. But he recalls Hundreds Hall from his childhood, and feels a mysterious pull towards the mansion he was enamoured with many years earlier. As Faraday becomes deeper entrenched in the affairs of the Ayers family, strange things begin to happen, hinting that Faraday (and the Ayers) are not all that they seem.

The Little Stranger feels like a bit of a departure for Abramson, who has previously focused on character-driven work such as Frank and his 2015 hit Room. It’s the lack of character which makes his latest a frustrating watch. Faraday is a generic nefarious bore, while Poulter is completely miscast and Rampling and Wilson just don’t have a great deal to do with their withering damsels in distress. The plot itself perhaps come across better on paper, but in visual form that’s little to see, and a curious lack of frights for a supposed ghost story.

More than anything, it’s frustrating just how little happens in the film. Faraday’s narration is used to reveal plot details in a clumsy feat of exposition, and brief flashes of potential intrigue quickly fade away. Even the production design feels cheap, lending an ITV costume drama vibe to the finished product, which sees a talented cast and a talented director produce a film that’s mediocre at best, lacking the necessary characters to make it a character study, or plot to make it the gothic horror it purports itself to be.

Published 17 Sep 2018

Tags: Domnhall Gleeson Lenny Abrahamson Ruth Wilson The Little Stranger

Anticipation.

Lenny Abramson always seems keen to push himself as a filmmaker.

Enjoyment.

Cold in all the wrong ways.

In Retrospect.

We know everyone involved in this film can do better.

Related Reviews

Room

By David Jenkins

Brie Larson shines in this deceptively life-affirming drama about a young mother forced to raise her son in isolation.

review LWLies Recommends

Dark River

By Mike McCahill

Clio Barnard follows up The Selfish Giant with an overwrought domestic drama starring Ruth Wilson.

review

Frank

By Adam Woodward

Michael Fassbender stars as the artist formally known as Frank Sidebottom in this spiky music industry satire.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design