The Ones Below

 

star

 


This psychodrama is a virtual four-hander in which the actors needed a better script.

 

The oddest fact about this disappointing British film that marks the feature debut of director David Farr lies in the fact that, despite his having earlier writing credits including the adaptation for television of John le Carré’s The Night Manager, it is his screenplay here that damns the project. What I knew about the movie before seeing it suggested not only something better but something altogether different from what Farr actually gives us. The promising opening premise is that two couples find themselves in the same property in London when both wives are pregnant. Upstairs we have Kate (Clémence Poésy) who admits to her husband, Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore), that she is apprehensive about motherhood generally. Downstairs is a Finnish girl, Theresa (Laura Birn), who for seven years has wanted a child by the husband she met in Frankfurt, Jon (David Morrissey). The fact that Theresa is delighted to be pregnant at last emphasises even more the contrast between her own free-spirited outlook and the anxieties that Kate is feeling. But, credibly, these differences do not prevent the two women from bonding.
 

Ones Below, The

Bad neighbours: Laura Birn and David Morrissey

 

This situation offers potential for interesting plot developments, but Farr quickly sets it aside with an unexpected plot twist that soon takes us into a much more conventional area. Exactly what is involved from here on in is intended to be mysteriously ambiguous: are we watching Kate becoming delusional or is she the victim of a plot and, if the latter, what exactly is being plotted?  But even as it is developing the story comes to seem very contrived, and indeed it doesn’t take much effort to guess what the ultimate pay-off that is meant to surprise us will be. In any case if the viewer is to suspend disbelief the tale needs to be told with conviction. The cast might have brought this off (I recall with pleasure Poésy’s appearance opposite Michael Caine in 2013’s Mr Morgan’s Last Love) but the dialogue keeps ringing false and sabotages their efforts. Even worse than what has preceded it is the messy mix of flashback and exposition set up in the last few minutes to explain what has been going on. This is beyond clumsy and it is remarkable that the British Film Institute regarded this as a project worthy of support.

  

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Clémence Poésy, David Morrissey, Stephen Campbell Moore, Laura Birn, Joseph Mills, Elliot Mills.

 

Dir David Farr, Pro Nikki Parrott, Screenplay David Farr, Ph Ed Rutherford, Pro Des Francesca Di Mottola, Ed Chris Wyatt, Music Adem Ilhan, Costumes Sarah Blenkinsop.

 

BBC Films/BFI/Protagonist Pictures/A Cuba Pictures production etc.-Icon Film Distribution.
86 mins. UK. 2015. Rel: 11 March 2016. Cert. 15.