The Little Stranger
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter
Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s follow-up to the excellent ‘Room’ is a disappointingly staid adaptation of Sarah Walters’ novel, a gothic drama set in the late 40s/50s, when pre-war class certainties were dissolving. It begins in 1948 with country physician Dr Farraday (Gleeson) visiting the secluded Hundreds Hall, a large country house in decline, presided over by matriarch Mrs Ayers (Rampling in compellingly enigmatic form). She shares the house with her doughty daughter Caroline (Wilson) and reclusive son Roderick (Poulter) who was badly injured and scarred during the war. As Farraday gets closer to the family, particularly Caroline, the family’s various issues start manifesting themselves in seemingly supernatural events. Abrahamson occasionally manages to deliver some genuinely unnerving and eerie moments (Jack Clayton’s ‘The Innocents’ is an obvious influence), but as with many literary adaptations, the picture feels simultaneously ploddingly episodic and truncated, with a great deal of nuance and thematic richness lost in the transition to the big screen. Wilson is excellent as the galumphing Caroline, but the overexposed Gleeson is badly miscast in the lead role: his Farraday looks far too young and the actor plays him as a two-dimensional prissy arriviste.