Review: THE ONES BELOW, Beware The Kindness Of Neighbors

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas (@peteramartin)
Review: THE ONES BELOW, Beware The Kindness Of Neighbors

Properly moody, The Ones Below brews up a strong cup of neighborly paranoia.

It's a familiar story. Kate (Clémence Poésy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) live in a lovely flat in a lovely building in a lovely London suburb. Kate is pregnant and they couldn't be happier. They live upstairs and are curious about their new downstairs neighbors, Theresa (Laura Birn) and Jon (David Morrissey).

Their impressions are generally positive as far as the somewhat tremulous Theresa is concerned. She too is pregnant, though she is quite anxious about it, since she and her husband have already suffered through unsuccessful attempts to have children. Kate and Justin invite the couple upstairs for a meal, where they finally meet the bombastic Jon. Theresa starts sneaking alcohol, and her behavior worries Kate. The night ends on an angry, bitter note when Theresa has a tragic accident.

Theresa and Jon go away to recover and when they finally return months later, Kate has given birth. Things are tense between the couples initially, which adds to Kate's own anxiety about motherhood. She is having a hard time emotionally, working from home as well as caring for all her responsibilities without much help from Justin, nor from her mother Tessa (Deborah Findlay), though that's more about their own unhappy relationship.

More out of desperation than anything else, Kate begins leaving her infant with Theresa, who is only too happy to help. As time passes, however, Kate begins to question Theresa's conduct with the child, which she interprets as suspicious. Is Theresa really plotting something evil, or is Kate losing her grip on reality?

The Ones Below preys on common apprehensions about neighbors in the modern age of anxiety. With everyone coming and going nowadays, always in search of an ideal place to live, the trusting neighborhood spirit is dying. Everyone is working, too, so who has time to get to know the neighbors? Really, who can you trust?

David Farr, who wrote the original screenplay and makes his feature directorial debut, is a veteran playwright and stage director. He co-wrote Joe Wright's Hanna and wrote this year's superb adaptation of John le Carré's The Night Manager. His script reflects his experience; it builds slowly yet logically. It's not so much about the twists, which are somewhat telegraphed; it's more about the characters, who are each driven by motivations that appear entirely logical from their singular point of view.

The atmosphere is dark and gloomy with occasional outbursts of sunshine. As photographed by Ed Rutherford, it feels both cool and warm, as though perspiration is beaded up just out of sight. It's a palpable feeling of unease that steadily permeates the proceedings, no doubt aided by Chris Wyatt' editing, Adem Ilhan's musical score, and Francesca Balestra Di Mottola's production design.

In The Ones Below, the air is slowly sucked out of the beautiful and increasingly deadly atmosphere. It often feels stilted, but that's what it feels like to suffocate in your own home.

The film opens in select theaters and via various Video On Demand platforms on Friday, May 27. Visit the official site for more information.

The Ones Below

  • David Farr
  • David Farr (screenplay)
  • Clémence Poésy
  • David Morrissey
  • Stephen Campbell Moore
  • Laura Birn
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Clémence PoésyDavid FarrDavid MorrisseyLaura BirnStephen Campbell MooreUKThriller

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