Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
Welcome to The Nicole Kidman Show.
From her impressively memorable big-screen “Hollywood” debut in 1989’s Dead Calm, Nicole Kidman has been fully capable of carrying a movie on the strength of her talents and charisma. And over the years, she has done precisely that on many occasions.
2001’s The Others, however, feels almost like a one-woman show.
This is a ghost story of the best kind: moody and spooky and mysterious, but not “scary” per se, and certainly not gory or nightmare-inducing. It’s the kind of Halloween movie you could watch with your kids, and have a good conversation about afterwards.
This ghost story features a big old mostly-empty estate house on a lonely Channel Island shortly after World War II. Grace, the woman of the house, is awaiting her husband’s overdue return from the war while caring for her two photosensitive children. When a creepy new housekeeping team shows up, we learn that Grace is kind of creepy herself. She has odd rules about managing the household, like keeping doors always locked and never having two of them open at a time. And, of course, she’s anal-retentive about letting sunlight in the house, since her kids’ incurable ailment places them at risk of blistering and anaphylaxis when they are exposed to sunlight.
By the time Grace’s daughter Ann starts claiming to see a young boy named Victor roaming through the house, amongst “other” people, we know that Grace has other issues as well. Hints are dropped about an episode of “madness,” and it’s very clear that she lives in a great many states of denial. The new nanny rightly declares that Grace “only believes what she has been taught.” And the kids can easily see that a lot of what Grace tries to teach them is shot through with holes.
So you can see that this is no slasher flick, or Lecter-fest. It’s cerebral stuff that asks us to examine our own beliefs as we go along on this tantalizing ride with Kidman as our guide. And she’s a compelling guide, quite necessary to writer-director Alejandro Amenábar’s languid pacing.
I suppose that today’s audiences might find this film too slow to track well with it in the context of home theater. But maybe not. If you’re already tired of the frenetic holiday pace, this might be just the thing to help you slow down a bit.