The sense of unease kicks in early in this smart, London-set psychodrama and doesn’t let up. Creepy and ambiguous with a winning line in everyday horror, ‘The Ones Below’ gives us a young professional couple in leafy north London, Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Kate (Clémence Poésy), whose pregnancy coincides with a new couple moving into the flat below.
Jon (David Morrissey) is a stern financier, while his affable, younger, Finnish wife Teresa (Laura Birn) is happily preparing for life as a full-time wife and mother. There’s something strange about Jon and Teresa: Jon is controlling; Teresa might not be as smiley and easygoing as she seems. They leave their shoes lined up tidily outside their front door and have a strange passion for fastidious housekeeping and neat clothes. Teresa is expecting too, but the course of her and Kate’s pregnancies creates tension between the couples that develops into suspicion, pain and even terror.
This is writer-director David Farr’s feature debut, but he’s an experienced playwright and theatre director, and wrote the scripts for Joe Wright’s ‘Hanna’ as well as the BBC’s ‘The Night Manager’. You suspect he’s paid close attention to Polanski and Hitchcock: much of the film is set in one house, and terrific use is made of contained, often claustrophobic spaces. Winningly, the film’s chills feel rooted in very real fears concerning pregnancy and early child-rearing. As a storyteller, Farr is bold enough to keep us guessing until the film’s final moments, but a late need to explain lets the film down a little.