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The Others
Reviewed by Jason Myers, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Alejandro Amenabar (Director)
Genre:   Suspense / Horror
Released:   August 10, 2001
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

In The Others, Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar creates an old-fashioned British chiller. All the standbys are there. Dimly lit passageways, fog, creaky floorboards, things that go bump in the night. Amenabar adhered strictly to Alfred Hitchcock's edict that the horror you don't see is much more terrifying than the horror you do see. In fact, he adheres so closely to it that he's made a movie in which virtually nothing happens.

Hold on, don't go to sleep yet. This movie is not boring, at least I was not bored. I was afraid, however, that my fellow movie patrons, several of whom were under 15, would get restless and make it impossible to pay attention to the film. The scenes were long, drawn-out, and filled with protracted silences, and the soundtrack was not nearly loud enough to cloak the voice of anyone who might decide to start yakking to their neighbor. The theater, though, remained strangely silent, save for the crinkle of a candy wrapper one row up and a few occasional yelps of surprise.

This, my friends, is nothing less than miraculous.

Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a mother who lives in an isolated house with her two children. I hadn't realized that I was in love with Kidman until I saw Moulin Rouge . In that movie, she was obscenely, heart-breakingly gorgeous. As such, there was a danger that I would spend most of The Others just staring at Nicole. Here, though, Kidman sinks completely into the role of the fretful overbearing parent, and glamour and sexual beauty don't really enter into the equation. (Okay, maybe her hair IS too perfect.) The movie slightly overplays the "stiflingly religious parent" card, but other than that, nothing about Grace seems too contrived or artificial.

Fionnula Flanagan (Waking Ned Devine) plays Mrs. Mills, the nanny. And Alakina Mann and James Bentley play the children, Anne and Nicholas, pallid and morose versions of Mary Poppins's Jane and Michael Banks. It is, as far as I can tell, the first role for both children, and it is their superbly convincing performances that carry the film. James Bentley is quite good, but it is Alakina Mann who really shines. She imbues Anne with an intelligence and precociousness that makes her easy to identify with, but, at the same time, just a wee bit creepy.

Amenabar takes his sweet time building the suspense, and as a result he may lose those w ho aren't in the mood, have short attention spans, or simply don't find the subject matter to be compelling. But he layers on the soft lighting, atmosphere, and bad omens, until even the most innocent of actions take on a sinister undertone. As a director, he understands perfectly what is so disturbing about stillness and isolation.

Because of certain elements, The Others will no doubt draw comparisons to another movie that will remain nameless. But I think that it deserves to be judged on its own terms, and not as a reaction to or a copy of the above unmentioned film.

I freely admit that a summer of watching (often disappointing) blockbusters has predisposed me to enjoy The Others. It's a nice change of pace, and it's the closest thing I've seen to an art house flick since early June. But any movie that I can watch all the way through with little to no time spent thinking "they shouldn't have done that" or otherwise second-guessing the director… is a rare treat indeed. There IS, at one point, a little too much "this is where we spell everything out for the audience" exposition for my taste, but it's the only complaint I can think of.

Dear reader, I may have raised your expectations too much by giving The Others such high marks. Thus, I will again remind you, this is a movie in which nothing much happens. But if you're the type of person who still sees a tinge of menace in dusty abandoned rooms, whispered prayers, marionettes, old pictures, and the soft, slightly dissonant sound of a child's song, then grab some popcorn, take a seat, and wait for the fog to creep up around you.


Film/DVD editor Jason Myers believes in Truth, Beauty, and Freedom. But above all things, he believes in Love (especially the kind of love that involves Nicole Kidman).

 
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