Film Reviews, News & Competitions



The Ones Below

Film Information

Plot: A couples' middle class splendour is threatened when they become embroiled in hugely uncomfortable psychological entanglements with the new couple next door in suburban London.
Release Date: 11th March 2016
Director(s): David Farr
Cast: David Morrissey, Clemence Posey, Stephen Campbell Moore, Laura Birn
BBFC Certificate: 15
Running Time: 86 mins
Country Of Origin: UK
Review By: Alasdair Morton
Film Genre: ,
Film Rating


Bottom Line

It’ll make you think, question and squirm, in the very finest ways, as middle class modern life and our ideas of who we are come under scalpel sharp questioning.

Posted March 8, 2016 by

Film Review

A sinister air hangs over The Ones Below, a gloriously uncomfortable psychological thriller from first time feature director, David Farr. The events that play out between two upper middle class couples in residential North London show that what lies beneath the surface is often vastly different to how it might appear above.

Kate and Justin (Cleménce Poésy and Stephen Campbell Moore) are a mid-thirties couple, well off professionals who are expecting their first child, when new couple Jon and Therese (David Morrissey and Laura Birn) move into the flat below. At first, they seem lovely, tending to the frustratingly unkempt garden and transforming it into manicured perfection, and reassuringly twee in their insistence on not wearing outdoor shoes indoors. They also have a large baby bump of their own.

Kate and Therese hang out, swim and decide to become BFFs – in large part due to their proximity, both geographically and emotionally. Yet while the couples share many things in common, their attitudes toward life and impending parenthood could not be further from one another, as they discover over a deliciously barbed and blunt upstairs dinner party one evening. Personal questions are posited, emotions and motivations challenged, prejudices unveiled, and after a nasty accident caps off the evening, lets just say that the couples lives take a serious turn for the worse.

Farr’s stage background is present in this claustrophobic four-hander which rarely ventures out of the twin-flats, but this works, for the most part, to the film’s advantage, and underpins the emotional and psychological unravelling that unfolds as shady histories, suspect behaviours and more are revealed. Noise bleed ensures the couples lives and intimacies are shared (passionate love making echoes through the walls late at night) as the front of suburban satisfaction is laid bare, and the attempts to make pretty bely Kate and Therese’s forced friendship, which leads to power games as they jostle for social and societal superiority

Farr also coaxes some wonderful performances from his actors, Poésy in particular as the mother who is unsure of her natural aptitude for the role, and Morrissey is quite stunningly imposing as Jon, whose sharp dress and well-to-do employ might not mean decency is his stock-in-trade across the board. “I know what I want,” he says over lunch at one point to Kate, before explaining to her how his precision-planned life approach ensures he always gets it, too.

Themes of social anxiety and the fear of failure, whether in relationships, as a parent (post natal depression is somewhat briefly yet carefully observed), or just as a person, are absorbing. And Farr’s film is strikingly stylised too; the garden and flat beneath are reminiscent of picture postcard family values and shiny-happy modernism, and their neighbours above dwell in a wholesome British abode populated with man-at-C&A fashions and a wooden floored kitchen that is certain to have a copy of the Guardian atop its centrally-positioned table.

There are moments that occasionally jar, as less subtle thriller tropes appear and similar ground is trod to films that precede it such as The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and Pacific Heights from the Eighties, and more recent fare such as the Samuel L. Jackson potboiler Lakeview Terrace. Yet Farr concerns himself more with the turmoil that exists within – and often with the self – even in such smartly pressed lives, as opposed to using it as a motivational plot-point through which to turn up the heat.

This monochrome suburban setting in which he makes his debut, though, makes for an all too familiar and yet macabre playground, as individuals question their own legitimacy and authority. “Are you happy?,” someone asks midway through. It’s a question that reverberates throughout this compelling and squirmy little thriller.


Alasdair Morton



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