The Others (2001)
October 19, 2023 3:50 PM - Subscribe

In 1945, just after the close of World War II, Grace, a devout Catholic, lives an unendurable sort of life on the Channel island of Jersey, with a husband missing in action and presumed dead, and an isolated family mansion that must be kept dark because her two young children, Anne and Nicholas, are photosensitive. When she and her children start to see and hear inexplicable things, she begins to fear for her own and her children's safety.

Background Information & Critical Reception

The Others (Spanish: Los otros) is a 2001 English-language Spanish gothic supernatural psychological horror film written, directed, and scored by Alejandro Amenábar. It stars Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Elaine Cassidy, Eric Sykes, Alakina Mann, and James Bentley. Set in 1945 on the Channel Island of Jersey, it focuses on a woman and her two young photosensitive children who experience supernatural phenomena in their large manor after the arrival of three new servants.

The Others was theatrically released in the United States on August 2, 2001, by Dimension Films and in Spain on September 7, 2001, by Warner Sogefilms. The film was a box-office success, grossing over $209.9 million worldwide and received positive reviews from critics, with many praising Amenábar's screenplay and direction, as well as the score, atmosphere and Kidman's performance.

The film was nominated for fifteen Goya Awards and won in eight categories, including Best Film and Best Director. It was the first English-language film ever to receive the Best Film Award at the Goyas (Spain's national film awards), without a single word of Spanish spoken in it. The Others was nominated for six Saturn Awards including Best Director and Best Writing for Amenábar and Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Alakina Mann, and won three: Best Horror Film, Best Actress for Kidman and Best Supporting Actress for Fionnula Flanagan. Kidman was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Drama and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, with Amenábar being nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, a rare occurrence for a horror film.

Many critics praised the performances of the stars; especially Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 84% approval rating based on 166 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The website's consensus reads: "The Others is a spooky thriller that reminds us that a movie doesn't need expensive special effects to be creepy". On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 74 out of 100, based on 29 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four, praising that "...Alejandro Amenábar has the patience to create a languorous, dreamy atmosphere, and Nicole Kidman succeeds in convincing us that she is a normal person in a disturbing situation and not just a standard-issue horror movie hysteric". However, he noted that "in drawing out his effects, Amenábar is a little too confident that style can substitute for substance".

Neil Smith of the BBC awarded the film four out of five stars, writing: "Shot in oppressive sepia amid near-darkness (Grace's children having a rare ailment that precludes exposure to sunlight), Amenábar racks up the tension to unbearable levels." Time Out praised the film as "confident and controlled... Absence makes the heart beat faster: the absence of light, the corporeal absence of loved ones. Shrewdly cast, Kidman is pitch perfect. It's a clammy, ingenious film, one of the best studio movies of the year."

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times cited Kidman's performance as the film's greatest strength, noting that she "has thrown herself into her role as if it were Lady Macbeth on the London stage, with formidable results. Though Kidman doesn't hesitate to make Grace high-strung and as tightly wound as they come, she also projects vulnerability and courage when they're called for. It's an intense, involving performance, and it dominates and energizes a film that would be lost without it."


Alejandro Amenábar originally wanted Emily Watson for the role of Grace. Jodie Foster and Catherine McCormack were also considered. He ultimately cast Nicole Kidman in the lead role, having been a fan of hers since 1995's To Die For. Nicole Kidman originally tried to persuade Alejandro Amenábar and the Weinstein brothers to find another actress for the part. Coming off the bright and exuberant Moulin Rouge!, the actress was initially reluctant to do a film that explored such dark places. Nicole Kidman actually quit during rehearsals, as playing Grace gave her nightmares. "At one point I didn't want to make the film because I couldn't even go there emotionally."

Executive produced by Tom Cruise, this movie marked the last collaboration between him and Nicole Kidman prior to their divorce. Their high-profile divorce was finalized the same week that The Others was released. The Others was released a few months prior to Vanilla Sky, the American remake of Alejandro Amenabár's Open Your Eyes. Coincidentally, it stars Nicole Kidman's by then ex-husband Tom Cruise.

Nicole Kidman pressed for the hiring of Eric Sykes as Edmund Tuttle as she and her then-husband Tom Cruise had twice been hugely impressed by his theatre work (in "School for Wives" and "Kafka's Dick"). Sykes was equally effusive in his appreciation of Kidman and her work. The name of the gardener/caretaker -- Mr. Tuttle -- is the same as the gardener/caretaker at George C. Scott's haunted house in The Changeling.

Alakina Mann and James Bentley were cast after an intensive search that encompassed 5,000 children. James Bentley was cast right away, but Alakina Mann took longer. The filmmakers wanted someone who'd be strong opposite Nicole Kidman.

This was Renée Asherson's final acting role before her death on October 30, 2014 at the age of 99.

The Others comes from a peculiar cross-section of production cultures. It stars an Australian woman playing an Englishwoman. It was written and directed by a Spaniard, backed by Americans, set in Jersey but filmed in Spain. The house -- supposedly on the island of Jersey -- is actually located in the north of Spain (Santander). The production crew visited Penshurst Place in Kent to film at the Lime Walk in the gardens. The Lime Walk was used in the scene where Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) went looking for a priest in the thick fog and instead met her husband who had returned from the war.

There is a Bollywood remake of The Others called Hum Kaun Hai? (2004).

Alejandro Amenábar, who wrote and directed the film, also composed and orchestrated the music for it. The script was written by Alejandro Amenábar in Spanish and then translated into English, with The Others being his first English-language film. Amenábar based a lot of the script on his Catholic school education. He's now agnostic. Alejandro Amenábar based the look of the movie on drawings from books of the '30s and '40s he read as a child. Amenábar wanted to play with shadows, and sometimes scenes were actually lit by candles.

To get the kids worked up, Alejandro Amenábar would play scary music when they weren't expecting it.

Alejandro Amenábar told Elaine Cassidy (Lydia) that it's in her character to always be one step behind Mrs. Mills.

The disease Anne and Nicholas have is an actual disease known as Xeroderma Pigmentosum, which is basically an extreme sensitivity to sunlight. It is very rare and only about a thousand people in the world have it.

The movie opens with Nicole Kidman, in voiceover, reading a story. She begins with the words, "Now children, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin." The BBC radio programme "Listen With Mother", broadcast in the UK between 1950 and 1982, always began, "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin."

In a pivotal scene, Grace finds a photograph album containing pictures of people she believed to be sleeping. Mrs. Mills informs her they're all deceased, and that people photographed the deceased in the previous (19th) century. The discussion makes it seem as if this was something done by superstitious people, but that's not necessarily true. During Victorian times, photos were costly and many people could not afford them. In reality, people did photograph their deceased loved ones during the late 19th century, but they usually did so because they would not otherwise have had any photos of the person. Pupils were often painted onto the closed eyes after developing and occasionally a hint of pink was added to the cheeks to make the person appear more "alive". Most were photographed lying down, as if in a deep sleep; others would be propped up in chairs, posed with favorite objects such as children with favorite playthings; adults with books or newspapers. There are many websites devoted to the history of this practice.

Mateo Gil, a screenwriter of Alejandro Amenábar's previous film Open Your Eyes (1997), appears in a dead man's photograph in the album. Alejandro Amenábar also appears in one of the photographs of dead people; he's the one on the right with a moustache, of the group of three men.

The ghostly image appearing over Grace's shoulder resolves itself into a somber face in a painting on the wall. This image is actually a detail (specifically, a close-up of the Puritan man's face) of the 1855 Pre-Raphaelite painting "The Wounded Cavalier" by William Shakespeare Burton. The face of the painting is that of Eduardo Noriega.

The basis for this movie is from an episode of the British television series, Armchair Theatre (1956). The episode is: The Others (1970). The episode was also remade as Voices (1973). This version is more elaborate but the story nearly the same.

Though not an adaptation of Henry James's novella The Turn of the Screw, this film borrows from the famous ghost story's themes, and its title seems to be a reference to the novella's referencing of the servant-apparitions as "the others."

Anne's description of what ghosts look like, i.e. people under white sheets with chains, might be a reference to Charles Dickens' novella A Christmas Carol, wherein Scrooge is haunted by his dead partner who is cursed to wander the world while dragging chains. This could also be reinforced by the fact that Anne said she read the description in a book.

Grace is seen embroidering whilst sitting in one of two armchairs covered in Sanderson's Chelsea fabric - this fabric was not designed until 1957, eleven years after the year the film was set.

Although the main characters are shown sitting at a table with food and drink, only one of them is seen putting food or drink into her mouth in a single shot. This would be Anne, who sips from her bowl at the end of the breakfast table scene (in the home release version only).

Grace expresses the importance of locking one door before opening the next. Often it shows her unlocking doors but only closing them carefully, not locking them.

In the scene in which Grace is loading the shotgun for the first time, she can be seen pausing in a recollective moment after she slams the breach shut. This is most likely due to her faint realization of deja vu, most likely alluding to her suicide by using the same gun.

When the wandering Charles arrives home escorted by Grace, he meets Mrs. Mills, later revealed to be another person among the dead. When he approaches Grace in the fog and as he enters the room to greet his children, Charles' footsteps produce a sound not unlike the clanking of chains -- which Anne had previously mentioned is a tell-tale trait of ghosts.

When Mrs. Mills and Mr. Tuttle are covering up the three gravestones, a Celtic cross can be seen emerging from one of them. The Celtic cross is a version of the Christian cross that is particularly common in Ireland. Mrs. Mills speaks with an Irish accent. This is a subtle clue that the gravestone is actually hers. Indeed, when the three gravestones are later revealed, the one with the Celtic cross has her name on it.

The extra white makeup of the children's faces is a hint of the movie's twist.


Grace: So you say you know this house well?
Mrs. Mills: Like the back of my hand. That is, assuming the walls haven't sprouted legs and moved in the meantime.
Grace: The only thing that moves here is the light, but it changes everything.

Grace: If you see a ghost, you say "hello".

Anne: I don't believe that the Holy Spirit is a dove.
Nicholas: I don't believe that either.
Anne: Doves are anything but holy.
Nicholas: They poo on the windows.

Mrs. Mills: Death of a loved one can lead people to do the strangest things.

Charles: [enters Anne and Nicholas' bedroom] How are my little ones?
Anne: Daddy! [hugs Charles]
Anne: Why did you take so long?
Charles: Hello Nicholas.
Nicholas: [hugs his father]
Anne: [to Nicholas] I told you, you see! I told you he'd come back!
Charles: Have you both been well-behaved?
Anne: We've been very good.
Charles: Have you been good to your Mother?
Nicholas: Very good. We study every day for our First Communion.
Anne: Daddy, did you kill anyone?

Nicholas: [as he and Anne are walking outside at night] I'm scared.
Anne: Well, you shouldn't have come then.
Nicholas: Say something.
Anne: What shall I say?
Nicholas: Anything.
Anne: My name is Anne, and I'm walking. I'm walking and my name is Anne...

Grace: [fires a shotgun at Mrs. Mills, Mr. Tuttle, and Lydia]
Mrs. Mills: Don't trouble yourself, ma'am. Tuberculosis finished us off, more than half a century ago.

Mrs. Mills: Sometimes the world of the living gets mixed up with the world of the dead.

Mrs. Mills: The intruders are leaving, but others will come. Sometimes we'll sense them. Other times, we won't.
posted by orange swan (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
During Victorian times, photos were costly and many people could not afford them. In reality, people did photograph their deceased loved ones during the late 19th century, but they usually did so because they would not otherwise have had any photos of the person.

This carried on well into the 20th Century in the United States, at least. We have a photo of a distant cousin in their coffin, probably taken in the 1910s. At that point in time, the family was recently divided between Virginia and Florida, which was a bit of a haul and probably the photo was taken to allow the Virginia family a chance to say goodbye to the individual in the coffin, since they could not attend the funeral.

The Movie

I actually really liked how this film flipped the haunted house story on its head with the reveal at the end. I honestly cannot remember if I figured it out before the end. I've been meaning to watch it again.
posted by Atreides at 6:43 AM on October 20, 2023 [4 favorites]

Saw this in theatres and the *sound design* blew us away. Whoever was editing sound used directional changes to be extra unsettling - noise from upstairs came from overhead, slamming door sounds came from behind the audience etc.
posted by Mogur at 7:09 AM on October 20, 2023 [4 favorites]

One of my favorite movies. I'm a sucker for scary ghost movies where the ghost is actually helpful but the sense of dread for death can't be easily overcome. See: The Gift (another fantastic performance of a strong but vulnerable and wounded mature woman), and The Sixth Sense, of course.

Am I missing any?
posted by Illusory contour at 2:58 PM on October 20, 2023 [4 favorites]

Fine film. I haven't seen it since it was released, but I expect it'll play even better now.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 3:19 PM on October 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

Ghosts in creaky old mansions is my favorite genre of horror, and The Others is one of the best. The scenes that stick in my mind are the reveal about the servants, and the return of her husband from the war.

Am I missing any?

The Devil's Backbone is another of my absolute favorites
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:04 PM on October 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed this movie. I haven't seen it in years, but Christopher Eccleston's line "sometimes I bleed" flits through my head and I get chills all over again.
posted by maryellenreads at 10:26 AM on October 21, 2023 [3 favorites]

The Others, which I originally saw in the theatre back in 2001, is one of my favourite horror movies, but after a second watch several nights ago I am surprised to find myself with little to say about it. It's good movie by most metrics, with fine performances from the cast, a decent plot and a twist I never saw coming, some good scares, excellent set, sound, and costume design, but it doesn't have all that much depth.

It is, however, amusing to speculate about Grace's and Anne's relationship going forward. Grace will try to discipline Anne and Anne will be all, "YOU MURDERED US ALL, MUMMY. PISS OFF." Grace might get much the same reaction if she tries to order the "servants" around. I mean, it's not like she can pay them. I can also imagine Anne thoroughly enjoying haunting the future live occupants of their house.

There seemed to me to be a run of movies in which the plot hinged on ghosts not knowing they are dead after The Sixth Sense came out. I'd do a search to see if there were others but I don't want to spoil the plot for any movies I may not have seen yet.:)
posted by orange swan at 5:46 PM on October 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

I saw this opening night after having been spoiled two days before by a Miramar marketing executive.

Even knowing [spoiler], it is an effective and terrifying movie.

On the last jump scare, I heard unhinged gibbering from close by and irritatedly wondered who in the world was so unnerved by such a cheap tactic that they would make such noises. Then I realized the person screaming was ME.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:52 PM on October 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

Orange swan, Stir of Echoes also comes to mind.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:44 AM on October 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

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