The Little Stranger (R)
Based on Sarah Waters' 2009 Gothic novel, the story takes place in the English countryside not long after World War II. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is a doctor called to the care of a young servant in the spacious Hundreds Hall, a sprawling manor home that has seen better days. The Ayres family, the once-wealthy owners of the Hundreds, are a haunted lot: Roderick (Will Poulter) was horribly disfigured during the war; his mother (Charlotte Rampling) still mourns the loss of her daughter Susan many years ago at the age of 8; the surviving daughter Caroline (Ruth Wilson) is a melancholy, standoffish introvert.
Soon enough, the modest country doctor is caring for all the members of this once-great family. He's curiously drawn to these people -- particularly Caroline, who finds herself relying more and more on him and his steady, steely demeanor. But is his behavior the product of chin-up sturdiness or a kind of emotional constipation?
Like many Gothic tales, The Little Stranger hangs tantalizingly between genres: It has elements of haunted house thriller, doomed romance, psychological thriller, historical allegory. This also presumably makes it a hard sell, as it never quite fully becomes any of these things. And the film's constant atmosphere of stillness eventually becomes downright surreal: Everything in this movie seems to trend toward paralysis.