The Ones Below (2016) - David Farr
David Farr's The Ones Below is pulpy urban thriller focusing on the darker aspects of maternity, politeness, and parental responsibility, which follows Kate and Justin, a young couple living in a London duplex who are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. When a charming, albeit enigmatic couple in Jon and Teresa, who are also expecting, move into the apartment downstairs, Kate and Justin are happy to finally have neighbors, but what at first feels like a shared experience between two couples that are expecting their first child soon turns into a sinister and psychological battle of wills, with Kate in particularly beginning to suspect foul-play from their new-found neighbors. David Farr's The Ones Below is a pulpy experience that is best enjoyed if it isn't taken overly seriously, being a somewhat over-the-top exercise in paranoia and thriller intrigue. From the very beginning of The Ones Below, the filmmakers make it quite clear what type of film the audience is in for, using tightly composed compositions and aggressive sound design which combine to elevate the tension and intrigue even in the seemingly quieter moments. While this overt style certainly elevates the tension and atmosphere of the overall experience, with an aesthetic that offers the audience the inside scoop on the overall deception and intrigue of seemingly normal conversations, The Ones Below becomes too transfixed on delivering this atmosphere, even to the point that it makes the more interesting psychological aspects involving Kate uninteresting, opting instead for a straightforward, pulpy thriller. Throughout the narrative The Ones Below the film paints Kate as a character who struggled a long time to embrace her motherly instincts, a woman who has a fractured relationship with her own mother, possibly even blaming her mother for the tragic death of family member. The film subtly suggests that she is a character who potentially is fearful of failing as a mother, due to her own mother's failures, though it never outright says it. This characterization is the most interesting and nuanced in the film, and it creates a nice juxtaposition with that of Teresa, a woman who desperately wants to be a mother, but The Ones Below wastes the psychological intrigue, opting instead to reveal far too early the sinister intent of the couple downstairs. One could argue this was merely a choice of the filmmakers, but The Ones Below could have been so much more compelling if it had questioned the psyche of Kate, using the monumental stresses of having a small child as a crux to, at least question, her perceptions of the couple downstairs. Kate's fear is presented but one never feels that her fear isn't justified, fulling believing what she believes, in that the neighbors below are after her child. In the end, The Ones Below works more so than not at what it intends, delivering a pulpy, dark, stylish, slice of urban dread, paranoia, and the darker aspects of maternity, but i'd be lying if I didn't say the film left me wanting more when it comes to the psychological aspects of the story, specifically centered around the character Kate.
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