Film Reviews

THE OTHERS

By • Aug 10th, 2001 •

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THE OTHERS is a supernatural thriller set in 1945 starring Nicole Kidman in a role eerily suited for her. Kidman suffers from Tall Actress Syndrome: Not all roles suit her physically. Tall actresses have a tough time playing cute, silly, or roles depicting them as ordinary women. The average woman is not six feet tall. Add Kidman’s alabaster skin, luxurious red hair, and beautiful face to her height (and Australian accent) and you see the casting limitations. She is in every scene in THE OTHERS – it’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a one-woman movie. Her character, Grace, is difficult to understand. She’s stern and cold to her two children, Anne and Nicholas. It’s a tough role to play because Kidman is not given a single redeeming character trait to balance her severe behavior, or an explanation for her iciness.

The setting is a fabulously harsh, spooky mansion on the Isle of Jersey off the coast of England. Even though they are submerged in perpetual fog, the children cannot be exposed to sunlight or they will die. Hence, they must be cloistered in dark rooms lit only by candlelight. When the servants leave unexpectedly, Grace agrees to hire 3 strangers who turn up at her door: housekeeper Mrs. Mills (Fionulla Flanagan), the groundskeeper Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes), and mute maid Lydia (Elaine Cassidy). Grace has problems with her children. They are seeing apparitions and hearing voices. Furniture moves and doors spontaneously open. The film plows on burdened with scene after scene of Grace tutoring her children about Purgatory and Children’s Limbo. Nothing scary happens except Grace gets more and more unbalanced. At first she denies her children are seeing ghosts, then she sees and hears them herself. The help start acting up. Then Grace’s husband Charles returns.

Written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, THE OTHERS is a supernatural thriller that does not thrill. It’s beautiful to look at, but doesn’t stir up a sense of danger or foreboding menace. Kidman should have given Grace more complex dimensionality: sexual frustration by the loss of her husband, depression due to isolation, the burden of her children – but all we get is very good diction and excellent posture. It’s a slow, tedious wait to the twist that is nearly as good as the surprise ending of THE SIXTH SENSE, but it’s dreadfully executed. The clever twist almost works to dismiss the tough wait it takes to get there.

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