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The Ones Below - Movie Review

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The Ones Below - Movie Review

4 stars

While Hollywood can only offer up mediocre sequels this Memorial Day weekend, the debut feature from writer-director David Farr (screenwriter of Hanna and the excellent adaptation of John le Carré’s “The Night Manager” for AMC) offers viewers a very severe case of psychological nastiness.  With The Ones Below, his intriguing take on London’s higher-end of the middle class provides a unique landscape where privilege becomes one long suffocating nightmare.  If that statement calls to mind the past tension-filed films from Roman Polanski, well, you aren’t far off.  The Ones Below is easily a mirror that reflects the detail-minded influence of Polanski.

The Ones Below is easily relatable as it preys upon pregnancy fears.  We are talking first pregnancies here.  For one couple - Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Kate (Clémence Poésy) – the decision to bring a child into the world was a careless and carefree one.  They worry about little and enjoy living on the upper part of an Edwardian house.  For Jon (David Morrissey) and Teresa (Laura Birn), living just below Justin and Kate, the path to pregnancy was a long one.  They obviously have wanted their pregnancy far longer than Justin and Kate.

When the two couples meet and discover some parallels in their lives, there is a willingness to become friends – at least among the women; both hoping to bond over their mutual pregnancies.  Farr doesn’t go the easy route, though.  He’s far too concerned with nailing down entitlement and class structures to do that to his audience.  Showing class systems at work, Farr has Teresa – who has revealed it took seven long years to get pregnant – bumping in to Kate and inviting her to swim at her private club.  Kate can’t say no.  But a forgotten lunch date has Teresa dashing hurriedly away.

Tragedy ensues and so does the paranoia and suspicion and accusations.  The couples are intertwined all right – but not as friends.   And, with differing opinions of parenthood and passive aggressive comments passed between them before and after tragedy, the uneasiness grows into a gulf of division that is full of fear.  The Ones Below is intense and grows its own form of paranoia as if it were a mere flower in the garden Justin and Kate look down upon.  Pay attention to that damn garden, though.  Production designer Francesa Balestra Di Mottola squeezes out some Hitchcock-like flavors from every corner; matching voyeurism with domestic malice and giving a lot of depth to the locations. 

Farr occupies our time with close-ups and shots of flowers blooming, extending metaphors beyond their obvious meaning.  While the third act suffers a bit from needlessly over-explaining itself, things are deeper here.  The roots of The Ones Below spread long.  From Polanski to Hitchcock and even British dramatist Patrick Hamilton (specifically a play called “Angel Street” with its use of gas lighting), they are twisted and nightmarish and absolutely gripping.  

The Ones Below is an impressive and equally sinister debut.

The Ones Below - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality and nudity
87 mins
: David Farr
David Farr
Clémence Poésy, David Morrissey, Stephen Campbell Moore
: Thriller
How well do you know your neighbors?
Memorable Movie Quote: "There are no abnormalities that I can see. I think you have healthy baby."
Magnet Releasing
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 27, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Eagerly awaiting their first child, a young couple in a tiny London suburb become involved in a psychological battle of wills with the tenants in the apartment downstairs.

No details available.

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