The Ones Below is a 2016 Psychological thriller. Directed by David Farr and starring Clemence Posey (In Bruges), David Morrissey (The Walking Dead), Laura Birn (A Walk among the Tombstones) and Stephen Campbell Moore (Stag). This is the directorial debut for Farr, who wrote Hanna and The Night Manager.
The film revolves around happy couple Kate (Posey) and Justin (Campbell Moore), who are expecting their first child. They are soon joined in their building by similarly pregnant couple Theresa (Birn) and Jon (Morrissey), who move into the flat below them. After a dinner party ends in tragedy, Theresa ends up losing her baby and blames Kate and Justin. They move away in order to grieve and let Kate have her baby without any awkwardness, but soon return to occupy the flat below with all seemingly being forgiven and forgotten. However, all is not as it seems and Kate starts to be driven mad by the surprisingly happy and supportive couple downstairs and it becomes clear that the house isn’t big enough for the both of them.
The Ones Below is a classically made psychological thriller and a throwback to the works of Hitchcock and Polanski. It is particularly reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) in its depiction of post-natal depression in combination with creepy neighbours. The tension is perfectly engineered throughout by way of the chilling, but minimalist, piano score and some truly awe inspiring cinematography. One of my favourite visual elements was the contrast between the grey, washed out couple upstairs and the sunny, pastel coloured couple downstairs (including Morrissey sporting some hideous jumpers).
Posey’s central performance is great and she beautifully conveys that fragile, post-natal state as well as the more unhinged, gaslighted character towards the end of the film. Morrissey plays the typical menacing role that you’d expect from his previous work and Birn is great at pitching her performance right in the middle of polite Scandinavian/psychotic babysnatcher. My only Qualms would be that the plot rattles along a little too quickly at times and it doesn’t always leave enough time for the characters to breathe, sometimes requiring Morrissey and Birn to go from 0 to berserk in 60 seconds.
Not a massively new premise but a tightly acted, fantastically directed thriller that represents independent British cinema well. It’s easy to see where the film is going from the outset but the way Farr gets there may still surprise you. Satisfyingly bleak and honest in its portrayal of authentic characters dealing with real issues, The Ones Below is a gripping ride that spits in the face of Hollywood happy endings and leaves you with quite the gut punch.
**** 4 Stars
What did you think of the film? Was it too miserable?