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Clémence Poésy – Kate
Stephen Campbell Moore – Justin
Laura Birn – Teresa
David Morrissey – Jon
Just a few minutes in to this movie, I reached for my mobile phone and accessed my Google app. I quickly typed in The Ones Below and checked the casting.
“..knew it” was my reaction. “bloody Fleur Delacour”.
I recognised her immediately – Clémence Poésy, the actress who played Fleur Delacour in three of the Harry Potter movies. I haven’t seen her in anything else, although upon Googling her further she has also starred in In Bruges and 127 Hours.
And she does good here. The actress plays struggling new mother Kate with gusto, delivering a high level of tension exactly where needed. And given the sort of story you’re dealing with here, it is very much needed.
The Ones Below is satisfyingly unsettling; it delivers enough subtle scares and shocks to keep viewers guessing for its duration. The overall concept of a sinister couple who live below an ordinary couple is interesting, and makes for a gripping watch. Although this movie isn’t an edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger type, it definitely has its own unique style. It runs almost like a soap opera than a movie with an independent feel, played out by very natural actors. And the actors are minimal; you get literally five people on screen (bar backing extras) for the whole 85 minutes. But it works. On a positive, the intimate ensemble ensures pure focus on the story with no distractions. I actually found it very watchable, I knew exactly what was happening and between who. I felt drawn in to the action.
Sustained threat is one element of The Ones Below, and it definitely lasts. Teresa (Birn) provides more than enough sinister flair as she takes a shine to Kate and Justin’s newborn baby, and goes more than the ‘extra mile’ when babysitting..
the woman is nasty and it’s as though she has the same genes as Peyton from movie The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992). She’s not as striking as Peyton but she’s certainly as twisted. The sort of woman you wouldn’t want to cross, she radiates an air of dread during moments between her and Kate; when she comes knocking at the door offering to look after the baby so Kate can go out for the afternoon, is one example. The bright yet emotionless grin on her face is weird – almost terrifying. And with one psycho comes another, in the shape of husband Jon (Morrissey). The couple are like two lit sticks of dynamite; the accident Teresa experiences in Kate and Justin’s apartment being the match that lights them. A sour air between the two couples soon materialises..
David Morrisey certainly acts as ringleader when it comes to the sense of aggression in this movie. In one scene, he screams so harshly at Kate (Poésy) that even I nearly shit myself. His short temper makes for a thrilling watch, I wasn’t sure what the hell he’d do next – whether he’d lash out physically or not. Great stuff.
The Ones Below touches nicely on the senses of dread, fear, tension. And it delivers these by using two simple everyday people. By portraying personalities you wouldn’t want to interact with in real life, Teresa and Jon radiate an air of sheer dread. Imagine one of the most nasty, calculating people you’ve ever met. The kind of person who makes your blood boil but at the same time scares you with how their personality can turn in an instant.. and there you have the ones in the apartment below. The fact they are in such close proximity adds greatly to the overall uneasy atmosphere the fact Kate and Justin can’t escape – even when they’re safe at home.
So those are the positives.
Now for the negatives.
The Ones Below is filmed mostly in an apartment block with just a few glimpses of the world outside, so in parts it becomes tedious. I mean, imagine being sat watching a movie where scenes open with a person sat on a sofa. It continues with another person entering that room and the two converse about life in general. Then a third person enters the room, and conversation continues until the third person exits.
That’s more or less what you have here. The staging in general reminded me a little of a university dorm; on a shitty day where the weather kept the students indoors, and the only action happening was people going between each other’s rooms to pay a brief visit out of boredom.
Been there myself – those days back in 2003; wandering in and out of people’s rooms in a robe and cute fluffy slippers to converse idly about the broken ironing board in the kitchen, or to ask who was having scrambled egg for dinner (it was the best scrambled egg in Devon).
The Ones Below was a bit like a parental Big Brother, saved only by the dialogue and dynamics of the ones in the flat below, so if you’re wanting full on action which takes place in various settings other than ones with lamps and sofas you may be disappointed. The movie is very flat in this sense. Minimal. It makes a good light thriller, but it’s not a huge one. It is more of a “what’s going on?” type of movie where mystery overrides any other genre element. It’s weird, slightly confusing, and very fucked up. But it’s not massively gripping, and I brushed it off quickly when I left the cinema – nothing really stayed with me. I think something was missing that could have made The Ones Below a real juicy thriller.
As mentioned, it’s the sinister and twisted personalities of the two lead characters which steer the movie to success; Birn and Morrissey provide more than enough emotion to keep the story bubbling. And in the end, they actually saved this movie from flopping massively.