Thursday, 3 March 2016



There's nothing particularly wrong with this low-key London-based psychological thriller. It's got a decent enough story to tell and it does it without much fuss or empty distraction, it's certainly well enough performed and put together with a satisfyingly bleak ending. But the only question that really stands out is "why is this in the cinema?": The Ones Below looks and feels like a TV movie which would play quite happily on BBC2 just after the watershed on a Sunday night, but it never feels like a a theatrical film that could be playing next door to a Marvel superhero epic. The BBC Films logo has graced a lot of "proper" movies in recent years - Saving Mr Banks, Quartet, The Awakening just three out of hundreds of titles - but to be honest this doesn't have any more of a cinema feel than any BBC peak-time thriller.

Essentially The Ones Below is a four-hander between two couples, Kate and Justin (Clemence Poesy, Stephen Campbell Moore) and Teresa and Jon (Laura Birn, David Morrissey), both of whom are expecting, in apartments in the same building, specifically concerning the aftermath of a tragedy in which one of the babies is lost. It was clearly an accident, but once the other baby is born the young mother starts to suspect her former neighbours are not as friendly as they seem to be: they might be conspiring against her in acts of increasingly uncomfortable revenge - but is it all in her head or is there actually something to it?

The Ones Below does at least resolve that question of whether the heroine's demons are real or imaginary, allowing for a satisfying downbeat conclusion to a quiet, understated, occasionally agreeably unsettling film. It's set firmly in an affluent middle-class London (someone actually says "We've run out of saffron!" while making dinner) and it gives no clear indication as to what the husbands actually do for a living except a vague mention that Jon is some kind of high-flying investor. Comparisons have been made (though not by me) to Roman Polanski, presumably for its leading lady going slowly mad in her apartment (Repulsion), for her increasing concerns over her pregnancy (Rosemary's Baby) or simply for its two initially cordial sets of parents pitted against each other (Carnage).

It's a perfectly solid film - David Morrissey is watchable as ever - but it's mostly pretty unremarkable and doesn't have any big show-off setpieces to burst off the screen, content to start off as a personal drama before heading for restrained thriller territory. Granted, not everything has to be a white-knuckle multiplex spectacular, and The Ones Below is a film that isn't even trying to be in that league, but a measure of zip would perhaps have helped and would have made it a more memorable movie if nothing else.


No comments: