The Others is a classic horror film with an famous twist that never gets stale. Although The Others partly mirrors the groundbreaking twist of M. Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense, the film’s nuanced narrative and neoclassical pace has made it a standout not only in the horror genre, but in cinema overall. Alejandro Amenábar’s third large film, The Others won eight Goya awards–the first for an english language film–and won three Saturn awards. It was also nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, which is said to be rare for a horror film.
Before we go any further, let us issue a server spoiler advisory for those who have been under a cinematic rock or those who are simply too yellow bellied and haven’t seen the film. If you are the former or the latter, DO NOT PASS GO.
Now that the children have left the room and we all know Nicole Kidman and her kids are ghosts, let us delve deeper into the plot–beyond the twist. While there is a wealth of symbology and easter eggs in The Others that fans of the movie have uncovered, there is one question that has gone unanswered for the most part:
What happened to Charles Stewart?
Yes, Charles Stewart played Christopher Eccleston. Husband to Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman). Father to Anne Stewart (Alakina Mann) and little, oft frightened Nicholas Stewart (James Bentley). Charles Stewart left for World War II and failed to come home even a year after the conflict was resolved… until nope. The catalyst for Grace Stewart’s psychotic break that resulted in her murdering her two children and offing herself Cobain style, the mystery of Charles’ disappearance seemed to resolved; but something wasn’t right. A distraught and fractured looking Charles stayed in bed for most of the time and when he did decide to leave the bed he also decided to leave the house–for good.
Unlike like the ominous and telling presence of the three servants, which included the incomparable Fionnula Flanagan, that was eventually the husbands somberly sudden and brief appearance leaves you guessing. Even before examining his departure there is the initial enigma that surrounds how the hell he got there in the first place. According to standard haunting rules, a person’s ghost is usually confined to the place where said person perished. If that is the case, how and why did the husband’s ghost make the trek back home? Was it an undying desire to returning to his family that spurred his spirit to walk over a thousand miles? If so, why did he leave after finally reuniting with them?
Some point out that Kidman’s character hinted that the couple was having issues prior and their disconnect drove him to join the war as a means escaping their marital problems. Maybe upon returning Charles saw that nothing has changed and things have in fact gotten worse. This realization caused him to pack up his things and leave. Maybe Flanagan’s character whispered in his ear and revealed to him that he was dead. Or better yet, maybe she told what happened to the children “on that day“–a phrase that was also uttered by his daughter earlier in the film.
Another strong theory is that Charles wasn’t dead at all and was simply a grieving visitor who the current occupants allowed to stay the night. Gasp! This is by far is the most interesting theory. If this were true then in retrospect that would make Charles’ sudden appearance more significant than any other foreshadowing occurrence in the film. This gives this great film yet another poignant layer.
What do you think? Tell your theory as to why Charles Stewart left his family after searching for them for so long through the fog.
Akeem is our founder. A writer, poet, curator and profuse sweater, he is responsible for the curatorial direction and overall voice of Quiet Lunch. The Bronx native has read at venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, KGB Bar, Lovecraft and SHAG–with works published in Palabra Luminosas and LiVE MAG13. He has also curated solo and group exhibitions at numerous galleries in Chelsea, Harlem, Bushwick and Lower Manhattan.