In the effective opening shot of the new thriller “The Stranger in Our Bed”, a woman stands over a makeshift grave, her face bloodied and her hands holding a shovel. As a police car approaches, the woman (covered with dirt and blood) moves towards their flashing lights.
With only this sharply framed moment, director Giles Alderson instantly creates an air of eerie distrust mixed with an undercurrent of fear, opening the door to a dark mystery.
Charlotte (an extremely good Emily Berrington) feels trapped in her marriage to her wealthy husband Tom (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) and resents the meddling from his domineering mother (Samantha Bond, “Moneypenny” from Pierce Brosnan’s 007 era).
In an effort to find some peace and sexual gratification, Charlotte has been having an affair with Ewan (Bart Edwards), who seems to have disappeared overnight.
Once the film places its audience in this state of unease, the mystery begins as Charlotte starts to distrust her own perception of reality.
When she goes to Ewan’s apartment (the place where they made love many times), a woman answers the door, claiming she doesn’t know him and stating that she has lived there for five years.
Confused and a bit frightened, she confesses the affair. Charlotte and Tom separate for a short time, but he and his mother bully her back, sweeping her off to their posh country estate. Late one night, she sees Ewan’s face on a missing persons website. Charlotte contacts his sister (Terri Dwyer) and the two set out to solve the mystery of his disappearance.
There is an obvious coldness to Charlotte and Tom’s marriage and both actors play it skillfully. Berrington and Lloyd-Hughes get to the core of their respective characters’ emotions.
Tom is a stern, rich, momma’s boy with an undercurrent of violent anger and a penchant for soulless sex that makes Charlotte feel less than wanted.
There isn’t a misstep nor false note in the performance. The wrong actor could have portrayed this as another cardboard cutout of an emotionally abusive husband, but Lloyd-Hughes’ work is tight and focused.
As Charlotte runs through an array of emotions, Emily Berrington captures each new revelation with a natural maturity.
Across the board, the acting in this film is very good.
Adapting her own novel, Samantha Lee Howe has laid out a blueprint for many twists and turns that we do not see coming. Despite the “Hallmark Channel”-sounding title, Howe’s script is well-written and impressively captivating, only faltering in its wrap up where the author removes the rational thinking of her characters and replaces it with an ending so ill-advised that one can only imagine it was crafted to give audiences a cheap thrill.
As director, Giles Alderson maintains good tension throughout and the film holds its tight drama for a great deal of its running time, until the small betrayals held within the screenplay cause the final act to become improbable and ultimately preposterous.
The first hour of this 90-minute thriller works very well, allowing the audience to forgive the major flaws in its wrap up.
With atmospheric camerawork from Richard Swingle (who makes the English countryside appear quite eerie), a solid cast, and an engaging mystery, “The Stranger in Our Bed” is a good little thriller that will keep audiences guessing.
The Stranger in Our Bed
Written by Samantha Lee Howe (based on her novel)
Directed by Giles Anderson
Starring Emily Berrington, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Samantha Bond
NR, 90 Minutes, Signature Entertainment