Written and Directed by David Farr
Starring Clémence Poésy, David Morrissey, Stephen Campbell Moore, Laura Birn
Film review by Hannah Sayer
Having previously written the screenplays for the acclaimed film Hanna (2011) and the BBC’s new television adaptation of John Le Carré’s The Night Manager (2015), The Ones Below is certainly a bold directorial debut from David Farr, who is most well known for being the Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Melodrama and theatricality of performance becomes an important aspect throughout the course of the thrilling The Ones Below, as Farr explores the modern day anxieties of pregnancy, with a horrific twist.
Kate and Justin, played by Clémence Poésy and Stephen Campbell Moore respectively, are portrayed as content and successful individuals who are expecting their first child together. However, everything abruptly changes with the arrival of their eerie new neighbours who move into the flat below them. The couple downstairs, Teresa and Jon, played by Laura Birn and David Morrissey respectively, are also expecting. There is something sinister about them that is instantly apparent from the moment the camera lingers on the two pairs of shoes that are left neatly outside of the flat. Kate’s anxieties associated with becoming a mother are juxtaposed by Teresa’s excitement and visible joy at the prospect of motherhood. What begins as a story of friendship made stronger by the shared experience of pregnancy takes a dark and shocking turn at a dinner party hosted by Kate and Justin.
Clémence Poésy is exquisite as Kate, effectively portraying her as a character plagued by dread and paranoia. Her vulnerability and uneasiness is sustained in the use of an urban but intimate and claustrophobic setting. There is a sense created that Kate is never alone and that she is always being watched. Farr moves away from creating a gory, bloody horror focused on jump scares and instead chooses to focus on psychological trauma. This can, in a way, be even more frightening to the viewer as the film seems very rooted in real life. However, Kate’s fearful nature and vulnerability does evoke an uncertainty as to what is real and what is imaginary. Farr sustains the suspense throughout the narrative, as the viewer is constantly striving to understand what is really going on in this tale of two couples.
The over the top theatricality of Laura Birn’s and David Morrissey’s performances threatens to take away from the intensity of the film, as the couples actions and interactions with Kate and Justin and the outside world start to become unrealistic. Although there are slight issues with pacing and the ending seems rushed and abrupt after the intense build up throughout, The Ones Below is a promising first feature.