(Herald rating: * * * )

Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her children, timid Nicholas (James Bentley) and precocious Anne (Alakina Mann), live in a bleak house on Jersey, the island off the British coast, not the state where the Sopranos hang out.

Three servants turn up one day. They are replying, or say they are replying, to an advertisement for home-help after the last lot scarpered in the middle of the night. Fortunately, the three new applicants know the place.


Since it is just after World War II and any help, let alone good help, is hard to find, Grace hires Mrs Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), a middle-aged Irish woman who seems to know much more than she should; Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), a young mute; and Tuttle, the ancient gardener (welcome back Eric Sykes).

Grace tells the servants that each of the house's 50 doors must be locked before another can be opened and the curtains must always be drawn because the kids are allergic to sunlight and might die if exposed to it.

No, we won't tell any more of the story because that would give the game away. Things happen. Some of these Things are seen/ heard/experienced by some of the household and not by others. These Things are explained away. Or maybe not.

In his first English-language movie, director Alejandro Amenabar patiently creates a suitably brooding atmosphere, while Nicole Kidman is well-cast as the everyday mum who becomes enmeshed in another world she cannot understand, control, or protect her kids from.

* DVD features: movie (104 min); behind-the-scenes footage; making-of feature, A Look Inside The Others; visual effects feature

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