​The Ones Below, film review: Psychological thriller probes the mixed emotions of prospective parents

 (15) David Farr, 86 mins. Starring: Clémence Poésy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Laura Birn, David Morrissey

Geoffrey Macnab
Thursday 10 March 2016 23:13
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Bringing up baby: Clémence Poésy stars in David Farr’s thriller, ‘The Ones Below’
Bringing up baby: Clémence Poésy stars in David Farr’s thriller, ‘The Ones Below’

This new psychological thriller from David Farr, who scripted the recent BBC adaptation of John le Carré's The Night Manager, stands as a cautionary tale about the perils of parenthood for young, upwardly mobile Londoners. The schematic plot features two couples who provide a distorted reflection of one another.

In the upstairs flat live Kate (Clémence Poésy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore), a glamorous professional couple. Kate is expecting a baby. Into the ground-floor flat move the free-spirited Theresa (Laura Birn) and her hot-tempered banker partner, Jon (David Morrissey). Theresa is also pregnant.

The two women have very different attitudes towards the idea of motherhood. Kate is wary and tentative. Theresa embraces the prospect.

Farr's screenplay probes away cleverly at the mixed emotions of the prospective parents – the yearning, resentment and anxiety that they feel about having a child, as well as the terror they might lose it. The film is very effective in showing the transformative effect that parenthood can have on even the most affluent and assured of couples – the way sleeplessness and exhaustion kick in and nerves become shredded.

It also offers a sharply focused study of the attrition between neighbours who look for, but can't find, common ground. Where it is less successful here are the thriller elements. The plotting seems contrived and reliant on coincidence and accident (light bulbs not replaced, shoes left in strange places).

The behaviour of the characters stretches credibility. The performances, though, are striking, especially that of Poésy as the young mum assailed by feelings of guilt, doubt, suspicion and hostility as her grasp on reality begins to loosen.

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