A country doctor returns to a manor he once visited as a child in The Little Stranger. Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) first visited Hundreds Hall in the summer of 1919, when he visited the manor with his mother, who used to work as a maid. Three decades later, the manor has fallen into despair, with the owner Angela Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) living a reclusive existence with children Caroline (Ruth Wilson) and Roderick (Will Poulter), the latter of whom is heavily disfigured from the war. Called to Hundreds Hall to check on the maid Betty (Liv Hill), Dr. Faraday becomes acquainted with the family and offers to help Roderick with his rehabilitation. However, as Faraday becomes closer with the family, and Caroline in particular, strange events begin to happen around Hundreds Hall.
The Little Stranger is an adaptation of the 2009 gothic novel by Sarah Winter, directed by Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson (Frank, Room). The story is period drama with some ghost story elements, focused upon the outsider Dr. Faraday, who finds himself re-acquainted with the Ayres family at Hundreds Hall, decades after visiting the manor as a child. The Ayres family has seen better times and Hundreds Hall is a shell of its former self. It isn’t too long before Dr. Faraday becomes completely embroiled in the Ayres family life, with him even developing an infatuation towards the shy and introverted Caroline. However, the presence of Faraday seems to attract the attract the spirit of Mrs. Ayres deceased daughter, who does not like this stranger’s presence at Hundreds Hall.
The Little Stranger is very much a film that is trying to use its ghost story atmosphere to heighten what is otherwise a pretty dry period drama. However, it seems that Lenny Abrahamson is much more interested with the drama of the story and even though the film is marketed as such, there is only very small percentage of supernatural horror in the plot of The Little Stranger. Instead, much of the focus is on the character of Dr. Faraday and how he inserts himself into the lives of the Ayres family. This leads towards an ambiguous ending that can be read in a wide variety of ways.
As a period drama, The Little Stranger is a fine enough film and those who like these types of stories likely won’t be disappointed. However, if you are coming into the film for the ghost story element, you are likely going to leave somewhat underwhelmed.