Starring: Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Alakina Mann, James Bentley, Christopher Eccleston, Eric Sykes, Elaine Cassidy
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
I wonder why Nicole Kidman held back for so long. After a career spent dwadling in mainly inconsequential movies like “Far and Away”, “My Life”, “The Peacemaker”, “Batman Forever” and “Days of Thunder”, recent years has seen her break free and become one of Hollywood’s hottest stars after “Moulin Rouge”, “The Hours” and this movie, “The Others”.
In 1945, Grace Stewart (Kidman) lives in a large rural house with her children Anne (Mann) and Nicholas (Bentley). Struggling to cope since her husband (Eccleston – “Gone in Sixty Seconds”, “24 Hour Party People”) went to war, she hires three house servants to help with the housework and look after the children. The job of looking after the children is made especially difficult by their condition – both are photosensitive and so cannot be exposed to natural sunlight, meaning that the curtains need to be drawn during daylight hours.
But after some mysterious goings-on, Grace becomes convinced the house is haunted. Anne insists that a child called Victor visits her from time to time and is responsible for opening curtains and locked doors while new housemaid Ms Mills (Flanagan – “Some Mothers Son”, “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”) seems to sense the presence too and soon empathises with the dismayed Grace. But just how much does she know?
It’s very easy to like films such as “The Others”. It’s spooky, well crafted, directed expertly and features spot-on performances from the entire cast.
Amenábar writes and directs, and considering that he also wrote the peculiar “Vanilla Sky”, you can not be surprised at the twists and turns that the story throws up. But writing is only half the success here, and it is his direction that equally propels “The Others” into classic status. The story is full of ingenious plot devives such as Grace’s insistence on no two adjoining doors being unlocked at the same time, her refusal to use electricity or the requirement that the curtains remain drawn before her children enter a room
While Kidman is superb in her role as a troubled and sometimes unreasonable woman, grieving for the husband she assumes has died in the war, she is lent sterling support by the brilliant performance of Alakina Mann. Mann’s character rebels in a way unheard of for children at the time, questions the very basis of religion (she doesn’t believe that God created the world in seven days and that Noah got all the animals on a boat) and vociferously refutes her mother’s allegations of mischief, insisting that ‘the others’ are responsible for it.
“The Others” ranks up there with the best of the year and will probably be recognised as an all time classic in its genre.