A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Little Stranger is a gothic noir film that's set in the 1940s and based on a novel by Sarah Waters. There's a lot of blood: A little girl is mauled by a dog (the mauling happens offscreen, but she's shown with bloody wounds), characters are sliced open by broken glass, and characters die. One person is covered in burn scars, a mother slaps a young boy, and characters sometimes rage angrily, smashing glasses or gulping down whiskey. A young girl is seen drinking alcohol at a party and claims to have smoked a cigarette. There are also scenes of adults drinking socially and smoking; language is limited to single uses of "ass" and "hell." A man and a woman kiss and grope each other in a car, and there's some sex-related dialogue. The movie is well made but perhaps also a little stiff for some genre fans; still, older teens and up with sophisticated tastes may like it.
What's the story?
In THE LITTLE STRANGER, it's 1947, and Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is called out to the crumbling Ayres mansion to check on the family's maid. Faraday once spent a memorable day at the mansion as a boy, and it still holds a strong fascination for him. Faraday realizes he can help Roderick Ayres (Will Poulter), who suffers from burns and other war-related injuries, and starts coming back to the house for treatments. Faraday also becomes drawn to Roderick's sister, Caroline (Ruth Wilson). But as he continues to visit -- and as his attraction for Caroline grows -- strange things begin happening in the house, from mysterious scribblings on the walls to servants' bells ringing on their own. When Mrs. Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) has a deadly, ghostly encounter, Faraday must confront whatever is at the heart of the matter.
Is it any good?
Adapted from a novel by Sarah Waters, this gothic noir is well made, with eerie camera moves and cuts, but it also seems stuck in an air of tastefulness; it never manages to get the blood flowing. Written by Lucinda Coxon (The Danish Girl) and directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room), The Little Stranger could have been a fun, prickly story of ghostly happenings, but its makers seem to shy away from any elements that would turn it into a horror movie. It's a movie that would much rather be taken quite seriously.
Gleeson plays his role stiffly, perhaps trying to capture a sense of class differences but also covering up Faraday's feelings of unease or passion. Scenes between him and Wilson could have been emotionally complex, with more push-and-pull, but they largely come across as numb. And because the story is told through Faraday's visiting point of view, the movie seems constructed in blocky chunks. Yet Abrahamson's setups and cutting are often expertly chosen, and he does create truly fluid moments of unease, as well as a mind-bender of an ending.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Little Stranger. Is it meant to be gruesome or to cause thrills and squeals? How can you tell?
How does the movie depict drinking and smoking? Why is the little girl allowed to drink at the party? What lessons are learned (if any)?
What is a "gothic" story? What makes it different from other kinds of horror/mystery stories? What's the appeal?
Why is it sometimes fun to be scared?
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