The Little Stranger is Lenny Abrahamson’s follow up the Oscar winning ‘Room’, it is a story of great depth and subtly. The great depths of thought that went into Sarah Waters’ novel and this adaptation is immense, the story is a drama with a ghost-like quality that is paced slowly yet it never bores.
The entire way of the film, the spectator is stuck in two minds – can we trust Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) or not? The way Dr. Faraday is presented is from a class standpoint, as he is from a lower-class family who has worked his way into the middle class, yet he never feels like he is one in the same and this depth in his character presents a question of his mind. Domhnall Gleeson is remarkable as he puts on a suppressed and rather charming performance surrounded by the likes of Ruth Wilson as Caroline Ayres, Will Poulter as Roderick and Charlotte Rampling as the haunting Mrs. Ayres.
The film characterises the Hundreds Hall, with mystery and complexion starting from the arrival of Dr. Faraday who is a doctor recently returned from World War II. The house is home to the maid (Liv Hill), Roderick, Mrs. Ayres and Caroline, we begin to see a growing relationship between the family and Dr. Faraday as he becomes a frequent visitor. Caroline and Dr. Faraday begin to supposedly form a connection, one which is ripping itself apart from the very beginning as Caroline wishes to escape and Dr. Faraday wishes to stay – this relationships misgivings is payed off massively with great impact in one of the novel’s most known moments.
A character that is a massive standout, is that of Mrs. Ayres played stunningly by the haunting Charlotte Rampling as she taps into the darkness of the film. The downfall of Mrs. Ayres is spectacular as she embraces the ghost-like presence of the house, creating some of the films most intriguing and haunting moments.
The mise-en-scene is very Hitchcockian, with the big ‘Psycho’-like stairway, the camera uses again similar techniques and angles to that of Hitchcock, yet the use of focus on the cameras creates a suspense and sense of entrapment which has been used in a masterful way.
The Little Stranger presents us with a series of flashbacks of a young Faraday and Mrs. Ayres at the Hundreds Hall where we begin to see his true connection to the house, Abrahamson through these scenes creates the core for Dr. Faraday and the ghostly haunting of the house by Suki, a girl who after that special day at the the Hundreds Hall mysteriously becomes ill and later passes. Chilling scenes follow as signs for a deeper meaning behind the supposed hauntings begin, with Roderick becoming insane and it rapidly shifts from one to the other. The way the film is written and is presented creates enigmas the entire way, we are of two minds the entire way and it’s unpredictability and its open-ended nature is one of great success.
The film drifts in and out of being with Dr. Faraday and believing him as we find it hard to agree with his actions as the film goes on. We see through flashbacks, a scene that is repeated over and over of a young Faraday sneaking around Hundreds Halls as in anger of what he hasn’t got he snaps an acorn off the wall. The use of sound is repeated a visual and audio queue as it becomes more apparent this snapping of the acorn is more of a metaphorical psychological snap.
The sound and Dr. Faradays actions get more of a direct reference as we head towards the end where Dr. Faraday furiously bangs on the steering wheel, the sound continues supposedly non-diegetically yet seemingly that same banging sound from the car is continued into the house where Caroline investigates – this is the moment when that direct reference begins to further suggest greater ideas.
The film ends on a chilling note, that will haunt you for days to come – the question of the open-endedness of what has happened the entire way is answered yet not, as Abrahamson reaches out and asks you your thoughts as you recount the film. Supposedly the death of Suki and all the unusual happenings are answered as it harks back to the past, “You!”.
The Little Stranger is set to release in cinemas in the UK on September 21st