The Little Stranger

Year: 2018
Directed by:  Lenny Abrahamson 
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter

Written by Fiona Underhill

The Gothic genre has had something of a revival in recent years, particularly focusing on the theme of gas-lighting, which feels especially relevant now in the era of “Time’s Up” and “Me Too.” We have had ‘Stoker’ (2013), ‘Crimson Peak’ (2015), ‘Lady Macbeth’ (2016), ‘My Cousin Rachel’ (2017), ‘The Beguiled’ (2017) and ‘Phantom Thread’ (2017) all featuring this theme and dealing with the reliability of protagonists and narrators. They have all been influenced (directly or indirectly) by Gothic literature (and in some cases Southern Gothic), Daphne Du Maurier, Dickens, and Alfred Hitchcock and are all right up my street. Now comes an adaptation of ‘The Little Stranger’ from author Sarah Waters, set in a haunted mansion in my home county of Warwickshire.

Director Lenny Abrahamson is best known for directing ‘Room’, the film which won Brie Larson the Best Actress Oscar. He has an eclectic CV, which also includes ‘Frank’, the tale of Frank Sidebottom, starring Michael Fassbender. The narrator of this tale is Doctor Faraday, played by Domhnall Gleeson, who is having an incredibly prolific few years, juggling his ‘Star Wars’ commitments with the likes of ‘American Made’ and ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’. He is a fantastic actor and I’m glad he’s finding so much work. Caroline Ayres is played by Ruth Wilson, who is mainly known for her role in the TV show ‘The Affair’ and it is somewhat surprising to see her cast as a ‘dowdy old maid’ character here, who is repeatedly referred to as being challenged in the looks department. One of my favourite actors, Will Poulter is typically excellent here as Roderick Ayres, a young man who was badly wounded in the war and is now struggling to manage the family estate. Poulter was recently seen in ‘Kids in Love’ and ‘Detroit’ but I will always associate him fondly with ‘Son of Rambow’ and ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’, where he showed enormous potential as a child actor. The Ayres family is rounded out with Mrs Ayres, played by living legend Charlotte Rampling, whose career is showing no signs of slowing down, in fact she has starred in ‘45 Years’, ‘Broadchurch’, ‘London Spy’ and ‘The Sense of an Ending’ (to name just a few high profile roles) within the last three years.

Doctor Faraday comes from humble beginnings and has always had a fascination with Hundreds Hall – the local manor and estate. As a child, he attends a fete there and he finds himself jealous of Suki Ayres, the little girl who lives there. Faraday’s mother had been a maid at the hall, which gives him access to through the hallowed doors for a brief time. It turns out that shortly after this happy occasion, Suki dies from an illness. Mrs. Ayres then goes on to have two more children – Caroline and Roderick. As an adult, Faraday is initially called to Hundreds Hall to attend to Betty (the maid), who has been spooked by something. He then decides to stay on, to try out some experimental treatments on Roderick’s legs. He becomes closer to Caroline, but both Roderick and Mrs. Ayres become troubled by strange occurrences in the hall.

The film plays with the reliability of the narrator well, leaving you questioning if any of the characters are trust-worthy by the end. Gleeson’s performance anchors the film masterfully, keeping Faraday’s true motivations hidden beneath layers of decorum and pride. The costume and production design really contribute to the atmosphere, particularly in depicting the crumbling pile, having fallen on hard times. Don’t go in expecting a horror film – it doesn’t even particularly have jump-scares, just a build up of a feeling of uncertainty and dread. As I said at the start, I really appreciate this recent trend in films  – where you question the story unfolding before your eyes because of the point-of-view that you’re seeing it from. Three more recent films; ‘I, Tonya’, ‘American Animals’ and ‘Wild Nights with Emily’ have also played with this format and I think it is incredibly fitting for the times of “fake news” we are living through now. It makes you work as an audience member and teaches you not to just accept the framing of the narrative you are being presented with. You realise that if another character within the story told it from their perspective, you might get a totally different version. Challenging the audience to think and to be a more active participant in the viewing experience is only a good thing, in my books. I look forward to more films that do the same.

FIONA’S RATING:

3.5

 

 

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Reel Women: September UK Releases

Written by Elena Morgan

Welcome to September’s edition of Reel Women, the feature that highlights the films being released in the UK that are written and/or directed by women. This month there’s a whole host of different films made by women to choose from, both at the cinema and new Netflix original movies. There are documentaries, dramas, thrillers and thanks to its success across the pond, Crazy Rich Asians is now being released in the UK almost a month earlier than expected!

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7 September

Puzzle
Directed by Marc Turtletaub
Written by Polly Mann and Oren Moverman

Agnes (Kelly MacDonald) is a taken for granted suburban mother and wife, but when she meets Robert (Irrfan KKhan) and discovers a passion for puzzles, she finally does something for herself.

This is Polly Mann’s first produced screenplay.

 

The Hows of Us
Directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina
Written by Carmi Raymundo, Gilliann Ebreo and Cathy Garcia-Molina

A young couple who dream of growing old together struggle with the realities of being in a long-term relationship.

Cathy Garcia-Molina is a director, writer and actress with over thirty directing credits to her name. The Hows of Us is Gilliann Ebreo’s fifth writing credit and Carmi Raymundo is a writer and producer who also produced The Hows of Us.

 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Directed by Desiree Akhavan
Written by Desiree Akhavan and Cecilia Frugiuele

When Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) is discovered making out with a female classmate, she’s sent to a gay conversion therapy center called God’s Promise by her conservative aunt.

This is Akhavan’s second feature film and The Miseducation of Cameron Post won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Film at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Frugiule is a writer and producer and she and Akhavan have worked together before on Akhavan’s directorial feature debut Appropriate Behaviour.

You can read our review right here

 

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser
Directed by Ian Samuels
Written by Lindsey Beer

A text sent to the wrong number sparks a virtual romance between Sierra (Shannon Purser), who’s smart but unpopular, and jock Jamey (Noah Centineo) who thinks he’s talking to cheerleader Veronica (Kristine Froseth).

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is Lindsey Beer’s first produced screenplay. Her other writing credits include upcoming films Chaos Walking and Masters of the Universe.

 

City of Joy
Directed by Madeleine Gavin
Written by Madeleine Gavin

A Netflix documentary about the unlikely friendship that develops between Congolese doctor Dr. Denis Mukwege, Eve Ensler, and human rights activist Christine Schuler-Deschryver who join forces to create a safe haven for women survivors in the middle of violence-torn Eastern Congo.

Madeleine Gavin is a writer, director and editor. She’s edited over 30 films included Nerve and What Maisie Knew.

 

12 September

On My Skin
Directed by Alessio Cremonini
Written by Alessio Cremonini and Lisa Nur Sultan

This Netflix film is about the true story of Stefano Cucchi (Alessandro Borghi) who was arrested for a minor crime and was then mysteriously found dead during his detention.

On My Skin is Lisa Nur Sultan’s first produced screenplay.

 

14 September

Crazy Rich Asians
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Written by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim

Rachel (Constance Wu) and Nick (Henry Golding) have been dating for over a year, and when it’s Nick’s best friend’s wedding in Singapore, it’s the perfect chance for Rachel to meet Nick’s family and friends – what she doesn’t expect is for them all to be super rich and famous!

Adele Lim is a producer and writer whose previous work has been in TV including One Tree Hill, Life Unexpected and Lethal Weapon. Crazy Rich Asians is her first film writing credit.

You can read our review right here!

 

Down to Earth
Directed by Renata Heinen and Rolf Winters
Written by Rolf Winters

Documentary about husband and wife, Rolf Winters and Renata Heinen, who take their family on a five-year journey across the world to find a new perspective on life.

Down to Earth is Renata Heinen’s directorial debut.

 

Husband Material
Directed by Anurag Kashyap
Written by Kanika Dhillon

When Rumi (Tapsee Pannu) gets tired of waiting for Vicky (Vicky Kaushal) to grow up and ask her to marry him, she asks her parents to find her a husband.

Kanika Dhillon is an actress, screenwriter and author. She has released three books and Husband Material is her sixth screenplay.

 

Reinventing Marvin
Directed by Anne Fontaine
Written by Pierre Trividic and Anne Fontaine

A young man runs away from home to become an actor.

Anne Fontaine is an actress, writer and director who was nominated for a BAFTA in Best Film Not in the English Language for Coco Before Chanel.

 

The Rider
Directed by Chloé Zhao
Written by Chloé Zhao

After suffering from a near fatal head injury from the rodeo, young cowboy Brady (Brady Jandreau) tries to find a new identity for himself when he is not able to do what he’s always known and loved.

The Rider is Chloé Zhao’s second feature film. As well as writing and directing it she also produced it. For The Rider, Zhao was nominated for Best Director at last year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards and she won the C.I.C.A.E Award at Cannes last year too.

 

The Land of Steady Habits
Directed by Nicole Holofcener
Written by Nicole Holofcener

After leaving his wife and career to “find happiness” Anders (Ben Mendelsohn) clumsily tries to put back together his fractured life.

The Land of Steady Habits is Nicole Holofcener’s seventh feature film – her film Friends with Money is currently on Netflix – and she’s also directed episodes of TV shows including Parks and Recreation and Orange is the New Black.

 

Wajib
Directed by Annemarie Jacir
Written by Annemarie Jacir

A father and his estranged son must hand delivery the invitations to his daughter’s wedding as per local Palestinian custom.

Annemarie Jacir is a writer, director, producer and editor. Wajib is her third feature film.

 

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19 September

Mile 22
Directed by Peter Berg
Written by Lea Carpenter

Elite American intelligence officer James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is tasked with smuggling a mysterious police officer out of the country.

Mile 22 is Lea Carpenter’s first produced screenplay. She is also an author whose developing her debut novel Eleven Days for television.

 

21 September

A Simple Favour
Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Jessica Sharzer

When beautiful yet mysterious Emily (Blake Lively) disappears, her friend Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) sets out to uncover the truth of what happened.

Jessica Sharzer is a director, writer, editor and producer who has been nominated three times for a Primetime Emmy for American Horror Story. Her last feature film, which she wrote and directed, was Speak (2004) starring Kristen Stewart.

 

Faces Places
Directed by JR and Agnès Varda
Written by JR and Agnès Varda

Documentary about director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. who journey through rural France together and form an unlikely friendship.

Agnès Varda is a legendary director who has the title of “grandmother of the French New Wave”. She has over 50 directing credits to her name and has won dozens of awards. Faces Places was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this years Oscars.

 

Never Here
Directed by Camille Thoman
Written by Camille Thoman

Disturbing events lean to an artist who photographs and interviews strangers to suspect that someone is watching her.

Camille Thoman is a writer, director, producer, editor and actress. Never Here is her first feature film.

 

The Little Stranger
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Written by Lucinda Coxon

After a doctor is called to an old mansion, strange things begin to occur.

The Little Stranger is Lucinda Coxon’s fifth feature screenplay. She has previously written Wild Target and BAFTA nominated The Danish Girl.

 

Nappily Ever After
Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour
Written by Adam Brooks and Cee Marcellus

Tired of having to be perfect for everyone including herself, Violet (Sanaa Lathan) takes dramatic action and shaves off her hair. This kickstarts a whole new chapter in her life.

Nappily Ever After is Haifaa Al-Mansour’s third feature film, her feature film debut Wadjda was nominated for a BAFTA. Nappily Ever After is Cee Marcellus’s first produced screenplay.

 

Quincy
Directed by Alan Hicks and Rashida Jones
Written by Alan Hicks and Rashida Jones

A Netflix documentary taking an intimate look into the life of icon Quincy Jones.

Rashida Jones is an actress best known for playing Ann Perkins in comedy series Parks and Recreation. Quincy is her feature-length writing and directing debut.

 

28 September

Anchor and Hope
Directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet
Written by Carlos Marques-Marcet and Jules Nurrish

A lesbian couple’s plan to ask a friend to be a sperm donor brings surprising changes for all three of them.

Anchor and Hope is Jules Nurrish’s first feature film.

 

Skate Kitchen
Directed by Crystal Moselle
Written by Crystal Moselle, Jen Silverman, and Aslihan Unaldi

Teenager Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) befriends a bunch of older skateboarding girls in New York City.

As well as directing and co-writing Skate Kitchen, Crystal Moselle also produced the film. Aslihan Unaldi is a director, writer, editor and producer. This is Jen Silverman’s first feature film.

 

The Gospel According to André
Directed by Kate Novack

Documentary on operatic fashion editor André Leon Talley’s life and career.

Kate Novack is a writer, director and producer. The Gospel According to André is her second documentary film and it was nominated for Best Documentary Feature Film at Edinburgh International Film Festival earlier this year.

 

The Wife
Directed by Björn Runge
Written by Jane Anderson

Joan (Glenn Close) begins to question her life choices when she is in Stockholm with her husband who is slated to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Jane Anderson is a writer and director; her previous film The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson is currently on Netflix.


I do believe that this month sees the most films written and/or directed by women released in the UK since Reel Women began. Twenty-four films in total are realised in the UK in September that are made by women, six of those films are going to be released onto Netflix. Do let us know what you think of any of these films if you get the chance to see them.

 

Oscars 2016: The Nominees

The second biggest awards show in the film calendar (after the JumpCut UK Film Awards, of course) is feeling a hell of a lot closer now, after the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards were announced this week. 

Not surprisingly, ‘The Revenant’, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s critically-acclaimed follow-up to his Best Picture win of last year (Birdman), leads the way with 12 nominations. The Academy also pleased film fans everywhere with a surprising 10 nominations for everyone’s favourite action film, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.

As usual, there’s plenty of controversy and public outcry, with scripts from Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight) and Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs) snubbed, and an apparent lack of diversity still plaguing the awards show. 

Will Leo finally win the Oscar? Can Iñárritu win back-to-back director gongs? Or will George Miller and his brainchild ‘Mad Max’ steal the show? Here’s all the nominees, plus a few predictions as to who might win on the night (although, if my earlier predictions of the Best Picture nominees are anything to go by, I wouldn’t pay much attention to my guesses).


BEST PICTURE
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant (our winner)
Room
Spotlight

BEST ACTOR
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (our winner)
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room (our winner)
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies (our winner)
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol (our winner)
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

DIRECTING
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road (our winner)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Anomalisa (our winner)
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

COSTUME DESIGN
Carol (our winner)
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Body Team
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

ORIGINAL SONG
“Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray” – Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3” – Youth
“Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s on the Wall” – Spectre

ANIMATED SHORT
Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow (our winner)

SOUND EDITING
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (our winner)
The Martian
The Revenant

FILM EDITING
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant (our winner)
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul (our winner)
Theeb
A War

ORIGINAL SCORE
Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario (our winner)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian (our winner)
The Revenant

VISUAL EFFECTS
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (our winner)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian (our winner)
Room

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina (our winner)
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario (our winner)