Alejandro Amenabar's "The Others" is a reminder that very good films need not be glitzy or gimmicky. Neither is an excess of special effects or action sequences required. Film is an exercise in storytelling and good films succeed in telling their story well no matter how small and quaint the film may appear to be.
Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) and her two children, Nicholas (James Bentley) and Anne (Alakina Mann), live in a manor off the British coast. Three strangers arrive one day in answer to a placed advertisement for domestic help. For some strange reason, the three strangers prove to be familiar with Grace's house. Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), and the gardener Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes) soon immerse themselves in the daily routine of the manor, but the mood of the house suddenly seems changed with them around. Is there something to the strangers or is Grace's imagination just getting the better of her?
"The Others" revels in its simplicity. This is a film reminiscent of an earlier era in terms of filmmaking craft but it does not at all feel like a time-displaced relic when viewed through the filter of modern sensibilities. A legitimately unsettling atmosphere is created under the deft direction of Amenabar and Kidman is granted a wonderful opportunity to put her acting talents on display. She takes full advantage of her chance to carry a film on her own and succeeds admirably. Kidman is the emotional and dramatic catalyst of the story and the film as a whole would have been far less effective had she faltered. Flanagan, Cassidy, and Sykes are also great as the sweet but creepy strangers. From the outset, we know that there is something amiss by their arrival on the scene but we cannot put our finger on it. A tip of the hat to Amenabar for keeping us in suspense until the very end. Good work all around.