The Little Stranger ★★★

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Just adding a follow-up to my earlier review: Having now read the Sarah Waters novel on which this is based, I think my estimation of the film has bumped up a bit. The novel is unquestionably superior, in the sense that the medium of the novel -- and the particular, first-person, anecdote-heavy form that Waters employs -- is better suited to the story's insidious ambiguity. That said, I want to re-assert that Abrahamson and screenwriter Cozon do a splendid job of evoking that same ambiguity within the limits of the cinematic medium, partly by being so damn *precise* with every shot and line of dialog. The film is *very* faithful to the novel, in terms of both incidents and mood, and in that, it's a commendable achievement of adaptation.

I've never read any of Waters' lesbian historical fiction, but I am Jack's complete lack of surprise that the source novel for this film was written by a feminist-minded queer woman. It plays like an extended critique of a certain Nice Guy-ish strain of male entitlement and possessiveness, while the first-person viewpoint throws the whole thing queasily off-balance.

I don't think 'Lolita' is too bold of a comparison, for while Waters' prose isn't as good (or even stylistically comparable) to Nabokov's, it has the same sense of contamination, the awful sense that we've become infected by spending time inside this repellent person's head. (And Dr. Faraday is, make no mistake, a very repellent man.) If anything, Waters' methods are more subtle: She conceals her low-key but withering critique within the stuffy style and social conventions of Inter-War Britain, like a stiletto hidden inside a starched cuff.