The Ones Below (2015)

  • Time: 87 min
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Director: David Farr
  • Cast: David Morrissey, Clémence Poésy, Stephen Campbell Moore


A couple expecting their first child discover an an unnerving difference between themselves and the couple living in the flat below them who are also having a baby.

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  • Maternal dread blankets writer-director David Farr’s The Ones Below, a psychological drama pitched somewhere between Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Farr doesn’t exactly go for the cheap thrills of the latter, but his exploration of parental ambivalence, whilst intriguing and compact, is no patch on Polanski’s chilling masterpiece.

    The film takes place in a British two-flat. Living upstairs are Kate and Justin (Clémence Poésy and Stephen Campbell Moore), who are having a baby after ten years of marriage. The delay has been due to Kate’s reluctance, mostly rooted in her brittle and prickly relationship with her own mother. Kate is fascinated with Theresa (Laura Birn), her attractive Scandinavian neighbour who has moved into the garden flat below with her older husband Jon (David Morrissey), a businessman whose manner is as gruff as Theresa’s is vivacious.

    The two women bond over their expectant pregnancies, but hostilities are percolating. For Theresa, motherhood is her reason for being – “Until I was pregnant, I didn’t know I was alive,” she confides to Kate – but it is also of high importance to her marriage. Part of the reason Jon married her was for her youth and ability to have children (he divorced his previous wife because she couldn’t give him any children). Yet wanting to be pregnant and becoming pregnant are two entirely different realities and, after seven long years of trying, Theresa is noticeably resentful with the comparative ease at which the long-apprehensive Kate has fallen pregnant.

    A tragic accident escalates the tension between the two couples. “You don’t deserve that baby inside you!” Theresa hisses at Kate soon thereafter, and her bitter proclamation becomes a curse of sorts. Despite their setbacks, Jon and Theresa remain in constant convergence whilst Justin and Kate, who appeared so solid a couple from the start, continue on increasingly divergent paths. The hardships of motherhood take their toll and the sleep-deprived, constantly exhausted, and seemingly almost always alone Kate begins to suspect that the suspiciously apologetic and solicitous Jon and Theresa harbour sinister intentions for her and her baby.

    Though closer inspection exposes gaps in narrative logic, the themes presented are compelling if not too deeply explored. Farr does an admirable job creating suspense with minimal manipulation. The predominant ambiguity serves the film well – there’s a gnawing sense that Kate’s paranoia may be self-generated, especially her frustrations and mixed emotions regarding motherhood, coupled with her isolation, may be eroding her state of mind. The third act slightly unravels all the fine work Farr has done up until that point but, again, kudos to him for not resorting to the usual overcooked genre tropes.

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