Such a happy family
A film that had me elated afterward considering I had average expectations going in. It’s a story driven film that relies on pure suspense to draw you in while adding a few thrills. It succeeds for me, in that; it’s not a gore or shock horror type of movie which I thought it might be. I kept waiting for the moment you’d see the gross horror element show up and kill the movie but it didn’t happen. The story focuses on a family living in the 1945 WWII era that takes you out of the modern world and into history which I always adore. I do enjoy seeing a different time period that I was not a part of; in a way it’s a chance to view the past.
Grace (Nicole Kidman) has two children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). They live in this old house but are forced to keep all the curtains closed due to a skin ailment the children have to the sun. It must be dark at all times for them which does give the movie a dark creepy tone to it. A trio of people Bertha Mills, Mr. Tuttle and Lydia arrive at the house in response to a need for housekeepers. Mrs. Mills is the prominent figure of the bunch and appears as a nice old lady but has some sort of secret agenda that comes to light throughout. Grace believes intruders (others) may be present in the mansion as unexpected occurrences begin to happen. Mrs. Mills explains how the living and the dead could co-exist. She talks with Grace trying to convince her of that belief but Grace doesn’t buy into it. Grace can’t grasp her husband not returning from the war and loses her mind essentially. Her children also claim to have seen people. A boy named Victor and an old elderly woman in particular. Grace believes they are lying and being mischievous which upsets her very much. It enhances the suspense masterfully.
Mrs. Mills reveals back in 1891 it was believed in that time frame that if you took a photo of the dead it could preserve it somehow. That comes to light as Grace finds old photographs of what at first appeared to be people sleeping but in truth they were dead. It’s not true and doesn’t manifest or entertain the idea at all but it’s a wonderful scene in the movie to suggest the house is haunted by the ghosts of these people. Mrs. Mills speaks to Mr. Tuttle at times out of the presence of Grace in suspicious ways that makes you wonder if Mrs. Mills is trying to take the house for herself. It’s all left to your own imagination but you think through and through she is the one up to no good.
The back story reveals itself in bits or if you follow closely can piece together in an interesting puzzle. I was excited to learn the family and the house keepers were in fact dead. Grace discovers their missing photograph and then she really gets mentally unstable. She refuses to grasp the situation as the ending of the movie reveals one of the most amazing twists I’ve ever seen.
The séance at the end is very surprising and a treat for a story driven movie lover such as myself, discovering Grace and her children are the ones dead. The people attempting to buy the mansion but believing it is indeed haunted leaves them to vacate. Grace sees the horrible reality before her eyes as she sees the people around a table trying to connect to the spirit realm. The ties to Victor, the old woman, which explains why Anne saw her mostly in her count considering she was the one who was possessed. The previous séance’s must not have been seen by Grace but the children were able to.
I liked that Mrs. Mills basically liked the mansion and wished to reside there on the other side. She tried to help Grace accept she was to dead and they only need to co-exist in the world of the dead so to speak. She went on to explain that at times the living and dead would contact one another as the two worlds would combine in extraordinary ways. You only need to understand and accept it when it occurs. It’s insightful writing. When Lydia, who is mute, discovered she was dead it drove her to not speak as a nice little detail in the movie. The film may take a bit to set up but I believe that’s how a story such as this requires. I, at this time, can’t find a moment in the film I didn’t like which in turn really surprises me to a great extent. It’s revealed that Grace kills her children in her madness along with herself, although they show none of that, thankfully! I’m glad I finally gave this movie a try even if it took nearly eleven years. I recommend it to any who hasn’t seen it.
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