call it post-partum depression. Frankly, Kate Griezmann has always been moody
and she long had her doubts regarding parenthood (as has her husband, Justin).
Her motherly instincts might have developed late, but they kick in with full
force when she suspects their rather odd neighbors represent danger for her
newborn son in British theater director-screenwriter David Farr’s feature
directorial debut, The Ones Below (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
is very pregnant during the first act, as is her new neighbor in the duplex
flat below. The Nordic Theresa is over-joyed (and perhaps somewhat relieved) by
her pregnancy, whereas Griezmann is still maybe convincing herself she is okay
with it. The two women form a bond through their shared experiences, even
though Theresa’s blunt-spoken husband Jon makes little secret of his contempt
for her attitude. Evidently they have been trying for years, which makes it
especially painful when a freak accident leads to Theresa’s miscarriage.
if matters were not awkward enough, Jon directly blames them for the accident.
Frankly, there is more than enough blame to go around for Theresa’s tumble down
the stairs, but that is not what the severe control freak wants to hear. Fortunately,
their overwrought neighbors temporarily depart from London, allowing Kate and
Justin space to adjust to parenthood and themselves time to grieve. Everything
seems all better when they return. Jon is still Jon, but Theresa becomes a
regular sitter Griezmann’s little gurgler. In fact, she might even have better
rapport with the infant, whereas mothering just seems to take a lot out of
Griezmann. Of course, there might be a nefarious reason for the physical exhaustion
and mental haze enveloping her.
Ones Below is a slickly
sinister film, but its biggest problem is the lack of narrative maneuvering
room Farr leaves himself. As a result, we basically expect all the big twists
after the first half hour. Still, there is something insidiously telling about
the film’s social-generational conflicts, with early 30’s Griezmann’s ambivalent
attitudes towards home and hearth contrasting with the yearning of the fifty-ish
Jon, David Morrissey is one cool, menacing customer. However, Laura Birn
(excellent in the Finnish Oscar submission Purge)
is the film’s lynchpin and showstopper. As Theresa, she shows a multitude of
dimensions, constantly keeping us off balance. Unfortunately, Clémence Poésy
never adequately humanizes Griezmann before her wheels start coming off, while
Stephen Moore Campbell is utterly inconsequential as her ineffectual hubby.
Below is nowhere near as tricky as it thinks it is, the film will
definitely inspire fresh waves of paranoia, especially among expectant urban
parents. Basically, Farr will convince viewers they should worry about
everything and everyone—and maybe that’s not so far wrong. Recommended on
balance as an unsettling domestic thriller, The
Ones Below opens this Friday (5/27) in New York, at the Landmark Sunshine.
Labels: British Cinema, David Morrissey, Psychological Thrillers