THE OTHERS, brilliantly written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar, is the
quietest movie of the year, with characters who rarely talk much above a
whisper and with background sounds that are only a couple of decibels higher
than dead silence. But don't worry, you won't miss anything since you'll be
on the edge of your seat throughout the most spell-binding mystery since THE
SIXTH SENSE. For the longest time, Amenábar keeps us unsure not only as to
what actually is happening but also as to what kind of mystery it is.
Perhaps it's a ghost story. But it could be a psychological drama. Then
again, it might be something else entirely. As you watch it, don't get
cocky. Even if you think you have figured it out, you may be wrong in more
ways than one. As one character remarks prophetically, "There are going to
be some big surprises."
The central character in this fascinating thriller is Nicole Kidman in a
great and creepily intensive performance. She, however, is constantly
upstaged by two amazing child actors, Alakina Mann and James Bentley, who
are stunning and chillingly effective. This is reminiscent of the way that
Haley Joel Osment managed to outdo Bruce Willis in THE SIXTH SENSE.
The story, set towards the end of World War II, happens mainly inside a
large, fog covered manor house on the British island of Jersey. Grace
(Kidman) lives there with her two children, Anne (Mann) and Nickolas
(Bentley). As the story starts, Grace's husband, Charles (Christopher
Eccleston), is off fighting in the war.
The children have a severe disease that makes them unable to handle any
sunlight whatsoever. Grace carefully instructs the new servants -- the
last ones disappeared without even bothering to collect their wages -- that
all doors are to be kept closed and locked and all curtains drawn. Fionnula
Flanagan, Eric Sykes and Elaine Cassidy play the new servants. Even in
their minor roles, they contribute immensely to enhancing the mystery.
Grace is a high-strung woman who is used to maintaining military-like
control of her household and her children. The events that unfold
completely shake her confidence. It starts off when the mischievous Anne
begins to torment her young brother, Nickolas. Anne scares the wits out of
Nickolas with tales of a kid named Victor, whom she claims to see. Needless
to say, her mother tells her to stop it. And that is only the setup for
this intriguing story. That's all I am going to tell you, which isn't much.
This much I can guarantee, as you keep trying to guess where the story is
headed, you will not be disappointed when it gets there.
THE OTHERS runs 1:44. It is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and
frightening moments and would be fine for kids around 12 and up, depending
entirely on how well they can handle fear of the unknown.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes