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The story begins on the dawn of the new life post WWII, in a large secluded island mansion where Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) works ceaselessly day and night to ensure the safety and comfort of her ill children, Ann (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). Constantly suffering the pains of isolation, fear and loneliness, Grace is bound to her house because her children, subjects of an intense photo-sensitive disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum, prohibits her children from ever leaving the refuge of the dark.
With curtains drawn and only the aid of candlelight to sustain their daily activities, Grace is distraught when her ‘servants’ suddenly up-and-leave, leaving her to oversee all of the 50 rooms of the mansion herself. With her husband having left to serve in WWII, Grace anxiously awaits word of her husband’s survival and is intent on believing, until her husband’s return, that the war has yet to end.
Hope flashes its inward eye when three servants, Mrs. Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and the mute Lydia (Elaine Cassidy) arrive in search of some much-needed housework back in their old familiar quarters. But their arrival is more suspect than relieving, as the servants’ interactions with the Stewarts heighten the mysterious tension-building atmosphere surrounding the house and its eccentric aura. Is the house haunted, is it simply too quiet, too lonely or is it the new servants that seem suspect? Or maybe, it’s Grace, the high-strung, fragile mother whose sense of isolation threatens her sanity?
As doors are consistently shut and opened (the former ALWAYS before the latter) and curtains religiously drawn, tension peaks in the film as suddenly, someone or something begins to defiantly pull down the curtains and make noise, which drives the delicate Grace to the point of insanity. As the servants become more and more suspect in Grace’s mind, a new layer of tension and melodrama develops. Meanwhile, Anne has let her brother in on her little secret that she sees people: people who want them to leave the house. Ironically, she adamantly refuses to call them ghosts. But if they aren’t ghosts,what are they? Moreover, why can everyone see them but the bible doting, high-strung Grace Stewart?
Mysteriously, Charles Stewart appears out of the nowhere in the dense fog and into the arms of his desperate wife, Grace. But Charles (Christopher Eccleston) return proves a change in his condition, as the war-weary husband acts indifferent and detached, vanishing as quickly as he reappeared. And that’s when it happens…!
In a psychological journey of the pathos of Grace Stewart and her fragile condition, more delicate than her ill-children, “The Others” is a mysterious film that lingers somewhere between dreams and reality and transcends the medium into one’s own psyche as they are effortlessly pulled into the story and its psychological ups and downs. Dark rooms, lit only by candlelight, create brilliant tension within the film’s dramatic ambiance, producing shadowy effects that work to heighten the suspense between audience and characters. An acutely attuned score dances between climactic suspense and languid, emotion-pulling measures that sweep past the ear with the ease of a gentle breeze. Daylight constantly threatens to break into the mansion, dramatized by the detailed door-closing and opening and the hyper-tension of Grace and her obsession with curtains. Everything about “The Others” screams observant, detailed, suspenseful, mystifying, intriguing, flawless!
Alejandro Amenabar brings to life this intriguing premise of isolation and desperation with the help of a stellar cast. The chemistry among all is so ornately in tune with the colors and varieties of characters. Nicole Kidman is absolutely flawless in her performance of a conflicted woman who borders between strength and fragility, logical headstrong, and nearly insane. Grace Stewart is a storybook of paradoxes, her character so colorful and rich and constantly in a state of suffering that one can’t help but be pulled in as Kidman takes you through every scene with a depth of emotional variety that only the most talented of actresses could pull off. Not disappointing the audience, however, is the rest of the cast, particularly Fionnula Flanagan and Alakina Mann in their performances of Mrs. Mills and Anne Stewart, respectively.
Whispered dialogue and intense periods of silence provoke the fear that is often substituted for the special effects overkill in other horror films. In short, Amenabar simply plays with the minds of his characters and his audience in this astutely intense psychological melodrama, with a twisted ending that will turn audiences on their heads and catch them by complete surprise. But don’t worry, Amenabar has taken painful care to make sure that, much like “The Sixth Sense”, all the bases are covered when the surprising ending intentionally provokes its audience to go back and search for gaps in the logic leading to the conclusion. By far the best scene is the ending, simply because so much happens just previous to and in the moment of the film’s conclusion. The long game of cat-and-mouse mystery sleuthing is finally answered in such a unique perspective the audience is simply forced to say, wow! I suggest watching and re-watching for two entirely different, yet equally enjoyable, takes on “The Others”. In short, this is by far one of the best dramas and thriller films to come out in a very, very long time.
Nicole Kidman is Grace Stewart… the high-strung, over-protective mother of Ann and Nicholas and wife to missing husband Charles Stewart.
Alakina Mann is Ann Stewart… the tempestuous little girl with a mysterious disease and a bad temper that result in her multiple bible-reading sessions in the dark.
James Bentley is Nicholas Stewart… the sweet but terrified little brother of Ann who fears everything about his dark surroundings, including the purported ‘ghosts’ his sister continuously sees.
Christopher Eccleston is Charles Stewart… the war-weary mysterious father of Ann and Nicholas and husband of Grace, whose mysterious reappearance and disappearance provokes the main tension in the film.
Fionnula Flanagan is Mrs. Bertha Mills… the obedient but slightly mystifying house servant who appears mysteriously with Mr. Tuttle and Lydia to help Grace oversee the house.
Eric Sykes is Mr. Tuttle… the eccentrically friendly house-servant who is in charge of working the lawns and helping Mrs. Mills prepare for their big ‘day of change’.
Elaine Cassidy is Lydia… the mute servant girl who works under the care of Mrs. Mills and the curious eye of Grace Stewart.