The Ones Below
dir-scr David Farr
prd Nikki Parrott
with Clemence Poesy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Laura Birn, David Morrissey, Deborah Findlay, Jonathan Harden, Christos Lawton, Sam Pamphilon, Tuyen Do, Laila Alj, Robert Roman Ratajczak, Grace Calder
release UK Oct.15 lff
15/UK BBC 1h27
The Ones Below
Nasty neighbours? Poesy and Moore

birn morrissey findlay
london film fest
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The Ones Below As it puts an infant child in jeopardy, this fiercely clever psychological thriller draws easy comparisons with the iconic The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. But this is no schlock horror movie; it's a much more subtle exploration of parental paranoia and urban angst in which every moment is soaked in echoes of impending doom. And screenwriter-turned-director David Farr keeps his wits about him, while scaring us out of ours.

In a leafy London street, Kate and Justin (Poesy and Moore) are expecting their first child as new neighbours move into the flat below them. And it turns out that Teresa and Jon (Birn and Morrissey) are also expecting a baby. So these strangers decide to make the best of living nearby and get to know each other. But their friendship consistently reveals tiny fissures, which become chasms when something nasty happens between them. The question is whether they can put their differences aside and get along, or perhaps more deliberate action is required.

Farr directs this with an assured hand, dropping insinuations into almost every shot while undercutting scenes with a cheerfully plinking score that's absolutely chilling. In other words, from the very start, even before anything nefarious happens, it's clear that there's something darkly nasty afoot. And the film is cleverly constructed to draw the audience in, building sympathy for the characters, dropping hints and then merrily throwing us off the scent.

The cast gets the tone exactly right. Poesy anchors the film as a young woman with some unspoken family history that surely means something ominous. Is she losing her mind here, or are the neighbours really up to something? Her despair is vivid, as is her lively sense of humour. Poesy's scenes with the sunny Birn are utterly riveting, mainly because the tension between the characters are so palpable. And Morrissey cleverly adds to the sense of menace with every tiny movement he makes. Moore is solid in a less pivotal role.

The film's visual style is just as inviting as the characters, especially the golden-orange hue that washes through Teresa and Jon's surreally designed home and clothing. Farr has a great time manipulating the audience's expectations by subverting the actions and reactions of the characters at every step. This is a strikingly sure-handed directing debut that marks Farr as a filmmaker to watch, especially as he continues to play with the very idea of storytelling.

cert 15 themes, language 29.Sep.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall