The Others Film Study

Written by Alejandro Amenábar, The Others is an old-fashioned ghost story but done very well. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s one of those films that can be ruined in one fell swoop (like Sixth Sense), so leave the building now!

How To Write A Horror Film The Others

 

The Others class

The Others

 

Amenábar is also well known for Open Your Eyes, and he started in filmmaking very young. He both wrote and directed The Others. (Screenplay)

This is a ‘haunted house movie’ (see here for an extensive list of many others) of the genres thriller and horror.

Remember that horror is one of the most metaphorical of genres, so there will be messages behind the story that you have to dig for a little bit.

Tagline: A woman who lives in a darkened old house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that her family home is haunted.

On Twist Endings

Now that you know this film has a twist ending, it’s worth noting that just be telling someone to expect a twist ending, you change the story experience. You’re always better off not knowing that a twist ending is coming. Take a look at the movie poster compared to the DVD collector’s edition, in which it is assumed that anyone buying the DVD will have already seen the film and know the twist. Note that, even though twist endings might at first glance make a great selling point, that information is kept off movie posters:

The Others movie poster
The Others movie poster

The Others dvd

Other films with twist endings:

  • Seven
  • The Others
  • Signs
  • The Village
  • Saw
  • The Stepford Wives
  • Terminator 3
  • Flightplan

Agatha Christie mastered the art of twist endings. Twist endings are almost mandatory in mysteries such as those she wrote. She managed this by setting up false villains. This is the trick employed by Amenábar here, too. Something which has been done so often that it’s almost cliche is when the audience finds out the main hero is already dead. This is done here too, after a fashion, but because we’ve also been tricked into thinking the villains are the troupe of house servants, the story still offers surprise: We probably suspect the house servants are ghosts, but we’re less likely to think the mother and her children are also ghosts. And even if we do guess that (because we’re super literate and have experienced a lot of stories), it is probably still a revelation to learn that it was the mother who killed her own children. Being a wartime setting, we probably assumed they died from some sort of war tragedy, or the Spanish flu (which killed more people during the war than did the battlefields.)

In short, the surprise twist in this story work because there is a layering of reveals — there is not just the one surprise.

This is difficult to pull off because it requires the writer to predict the audience’s response in order to confound it.

Tagline: A woman who lives in a darkened old house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that her family home is haunted.

Genres: Thriller, horror. Remember that horror is one of the most metaphorical of genres, so there will be messages behind the story that you have to dig for a little bit. The story opens with a mother telling her children the story of Genesis. According to her religious (Catholic) world view, the afterlife is divided into parts: heaven, hell and purgatory. She believes this all the while failing to understand her reality within the story: Life on earth is likewise divided into parts — the living and the dead. Earth has its own kind of limbo, and it turns out to have nothing to do with whether someone has been baptised or not (as she has told her daughter, Anne.)

The Others is influenced by German Expressionism, an art movement dating from around 1900 until the early 1920s. German expressionist artists had often been to war, and came back a little world weary. The art they made was about the wretchedness of modern urban life, the solace of nature and religion, the naked body and its potential to signify primal emotion, and the need to confront the devastating experience of WW1. German expressionist art aims to startle the viewer. It is frank and direct. If you watch a German expressionist film you’ll find:

Chiaroscuro lighting — extreme contrasts of dark and light can be seen in this film as the characters move between dark/light rooms, often illuminated by only a kerosene lamp.

Lots of mirrors, glass and other reflective surfaces — in this film mirrors and windows come to the fore

the others window

the others curtains window

the others mirror

Anthropomorphism — in this ghost story we have a similar thing — possession. (Little girl turns into old woman.) In a haunted house movie the house itself often functions as a character in its own right. The puppet Anne (and the old woman) play with is an anthropomorphised visual representation of this double world, where one has a hold over the other. But which world is more influential? In the end, the spirit world win out — the real world people drive away, unable to get rid of the ghosts.

what have you done with my daughter

22 Steps Analysis

I had a bit of trouble applying the steps to the film — partly perhaps because I need to see it again to be sure, but also because I think (as Roger Ebert pointed out) this story is a ‘waiting game’. Unlike some of the most popular and memorable films, this one has a largely passive protagonist, whose only real motivation is to do nothing and keep the status quo. This was perhaps the writer’s biggest challenge. The writer also had to be very careful about the reveals, saving the one big reveal right until the very end. This meant that there could be no dramatic irony or anything like that — the audience has to be kept in the dark for as long as the protagonist is kept in the dark. This suspense bored Roger Ebert, who no doubt could guess what was going to happen due to having seen so many films; other fans absolutely loved the atmosphere regardless.

Why do some critics think this story drags? It became clear to me when I realised I was having trouble with the 22 steps, and I think the story might seem slow because both Grace and her fake-opponent ally Mrs Mills were both waiting for each other to reveal themselves. Usually, you’ve got a driven hero and an equally driven opponent. The real opponents, who are very driven to rid their house of ghosts, are unseen by the audience, which is another problem the writer had to overcome.

Self-revelation, need, desire

At the end of this story Grace will realise she is dead. She thinks she is still alive. She needs to realise she is dead before she can begin to ‘live’ her death. But the death is really a metaphor for the one terrible thing she did to her children — the killing could be compared to anything which damages a relationship irreparably, from which there’s no going back.

At the end Grace will also realise that she killed her own children as well as herself. This is part of her mending her relationship with them in their shared death. (They’re going to be stuck here, in this house, forever together… When I realised this I felt terribly sad for those child ghosts! Though apologies from parent to child can mend relationships, saying sorry cannot mend psychological damage.)

But here at the beginning of the story Grace thinks she is alive. She can’t work out why her servants left without so much as collecting their pay cheque, and she thinks that although she got mad and smothered her children with pillows, that she did no lasting damage, because all she remembers is that she walked  back in on them and they were playing happily with said pillows.

the-others-servants
Why are the servants surprised when Grace says she’s expecting them? Is it because they realise for the first time she doesn’t know she’s dead? Because they’ve been here the whole time and she’s never seen them before? In which case, why do they wait at the front door? Don’t ghosts just come and go as they please, through walls and suchlike?

Ghost (backstory)

This is the perfect story to use when illustrating the concept of the ‘ghost’ in storytelling, because this is literally a ghost story, but even if the main character hadn’t happened to have died, there is still the issue of that one day: We’re not told immediately (only after the father comes back — we learn he has asked the daughter about ‘that day’) but something terrible happened right before this story timeline began. By the time we’re told what it was we’ve already sensed it. The ‘ghost’, of course, is that Grace went mad and smothered her children to death with pillows before killing herself with the shot gun. We’ve already seen by that point in the story that the mother is controlling and mean, and that she owns a rifle. (Chekhov’s actual gun.)

The first question the audience has (although I personally forgot about it altogether until I went back): Why does Grace scream?

the others initial scream

Storyworld

The post-wartime Isle of Jersey setting works very well for this particular story, partly because modern technology would prove a big problem for the basic plot. This is a family who needs to exist in a big house with no electricity. The darkness of the house is explained away at the beginning when Grace explains to the house servants that there were so many electricity cuts during the war that they just ‘learned to live without it’. There’s also the photosensitivity issue to get around the other problem — children generally play outside, and these ones don’t.

This era was also the height of the ghost story, sometimes called ‘The Golden Age of the Ghost Story’ (between the decline of the Gothic novel in the 1930s until the start of the first world war.)

There’s also a convenient reason for the father to be absent, and for him to be dead. He needs to be dead if he is to appear as a character in the story, and wars are great for that. Or is he just in a coma? The father’s semi-comatose state in this movie suggests that maybe he is lying injured somewhere on a battlefield, and when he leaves it’s because he’s returned to the land of the living. (In which case, is he the next person to arrive at the house? Will the children be haunted by the ghost of their own dad?)

For a 2001 audience, the wartime setting feels sufficiently ‘old-timey’ to suit the ghost story’s mood — after that even aristocratic families in and around England were no longer living in gothic castles on the misty moors — they were starting to open up their homes to the public in order to pay for maintenance on their historic homes, and the English aristocracy had changed to the point where the super rich could no longer live as they had been.

Another problem the writer had to overcome was: How to limit the arena to just this castle and the surrounding forest? He did this by use of mist. (A widespread belief concerning ghosts is that they are composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material.) Grace mentions at one point that ‘The fog has never lasted this long before’. In the ghost world that this writer has created, ghosts are surrounded by a white gloom, and can never escape beyond the place where they have an emotional attachment. This works really well. This boundary is tested of course, when Grace tries to leave and gets disorientated. (She finds her husband at that point, who seems to have been wandering around in a fugue state looking for home.)

Isle of Jersey

John Truby has this to say about stories set on islands:

The island is an ideal setting for creating a story in a social context. Like the ocean and outer space, the island is both highly abstract and completely natural. It is a miniature of the earth, a small piece of land surrounded by water. The island is, by definition, a separated place. This is why, in stories, it is the laboratory of man, a solitary paradise or hell, the place where a special world can be built and where new forms of living can be created and tested.

The separate, abstract quality of the island is why it is often used to depict a utopia or dystopia. And even more than the jungle, the island is the classic setting for showing the workings of evolution.

As for this island in particular, it has a long and interesting history, and would therefore have interesting ghosts. (Its recorded history extends over 1000 years. Jersey was part of the Duchy of Normandy, who’s dukes went on to become kings of England from 1066. Although it’s closer geographically to France than to England, it has remained attached to the English crown.)

Other problems the writer would have had to think about in this particular story: How to supply a family of ghosts with food? If ghosts don’t eat, wouldn’t they notice this fact? He gets around this by including a breakfast scene early in the story in which the daughter, Anne, eats toast but says it tastes funny, not like before. We — and the new housekeeper — interpret this to mean that the previous cook made better toast, and that Anne is simply having trouble adjusting to the change of personnel. But on second viewing, this is foreshadowing — she’s having trouble adjusting to being dead in general.

The Others tea and water

Other supplies such as Grace’s migraine tablets and kerosene are conceivably in generous supply at the house and haven’t run out over the course of the storytelling.

Haunted houses have a long history in literature, which is referred to throughout the film by Anne, literature in such tales, who has therefore concluded that ghosts walk around in chains. She would have been influenced by stories such as:

  • The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) by Ann Radcliffe
  • “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1845) by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The House of the Seven Gables (1851) by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Turn of the Screw (1898) by Henry James
  • The House on the Borderland (1908) by William Hope Hodgson
  • The Rats in the Walls (1924) by H. P. Lovecraft

This house is Victorian in style, just as the mother has Victorian values about child-rearing and a literal interpretation of the bible.

Notice again we have a reflection -- a double house in a double world.
Notice again we have a reflection — a double house in a double world.

Weakness & Need (Problem)

Psychological Weakness: Grace is unable to relate warmly to her own children (or indeed to anyone else) and, as it turns out, she sometimes goes over the edge into insanity. We see this when Anne is possessed by the old lady from the other side.

Moral Weakness: Grace is controlling and mean — she is the trope of the cold, pre-war English mother who believes children should be seen and not heard. She is motivated by the Bible and doesn’t question even its most disturbing parts. She believes all evil will be punished in hell and using this as her motivation she can be unjustly cruel on her children, particularly on her daughter Anne. We see this when she makes Anne sit on the stairs for three days reading from the bible. The housekeeper questions the severity of the punishment. (Anne has been seeing ghosts.) Grace also treats her servants harshly, and doesn’t believe that she herself might have made a mistake such as leave a door open. She doesn’t believe people even when they’re telling the truth.

Need: Grace needs to put aside the bible and experience spirituality for herself — there’s no telling this woman.

Inciting Incident

Anne has seen some ghosts and draws pictures of them — not that Grace believes this. She punishes her daughter for making up stories.

This inciting incident connects need and desire by showing the audience how Grace can’t accept experience — this contrasts with her reading the bible (in the very opening sequence) — she is a woman of words but not of experience. She can’t ‘feel’ anything.

Desire

Grace’s goal in this story is to live in this big, dark house undisturbed by the outside world, protecting her (supposedly) photosensitive children from sunlight. She is the perfect character to become a ghost without knowing it because all she wants to do is keep her children locked up in the dark. (I suspect the mother was actually agoraphobic, otherwise she would have surely memorised the names on the graves right outside her own house and realised who the servants were as soon as they turned up. I suspect Grace impressed this agoraphobia onto her own children by telling them they were photosensitive when they weren’t.)

The importance of this desire increases over the course of the story due to the ‘ghosts’ making this impossible, escalating of course when they’ve taken down the curtains altogether. (Probably because they were freaked out by them — the actual ghosts were always going around closing them during the day.)

Ally/Allies

The housekeeper Mrs Bertha Mills is a fake-opponent ally. Her desire in this story is to show Grace the truth and provide her support when she comes to her realisation that she is dead. But she seems to Grace (and also to the audience) to be deliberately undermining Grace’s efforts to keep her children shielded from light.

the others mrs mills

Opponent

Grace’s main opponent is her own daughter who is beginning to enter the defiant years. She won’t do as her mother tells her to do. If Grace’s main desire is to keep her children hidden from the light (from the truth), Anne’s desire is to live, and to live authentically. She cannot ignore evidence of strange happenings, even if she isn’t fully cognisant of the truth.

Other opponents are the unseen living people who have moved into the house. Mainly, it’s the clairvoyant who has the power to get rid of them, and the main desire is to stay in the house.

the others clairvoyant

Mystery

The mystery is: Whose version of the truth are we to believe — is Anne making stories up? What are those noises? Are they still surrounded? Are the noises real? Are they coming from anywhere at all, or is Mrs Mills playing some sort of psychological trick on Grace? Who is the victim here? What is Mrs Mills’ motivation? The mystery thickens when we learn that Mrs Mills has served in this house before. Why has she come back?

Fake-ally opponent

The returning husband almost fits this description: Does he know that he is dead? Is that why he took off, to heaven? It seems he has worked out the truth of ‘that day’ from Anne, and perhaps he feels bad for his wife but does not want to spend the rest of forever with her. He makes love to her and leaves. So during that scene I suppose he’s a fake-ally. Or perhaps his real life experiences on the battlefield have made more of an impression on him than his house, and so his permanent otherworld arena is the battlefield rather than one of domesticity. (In ghost lore, ghosts hang around places when they feel a strong connection to that place.)

Changed desire and motive

Grace’s desire doesn’t waver throughout this story — her only motivation is to keep the house dark.

Even when faced with evidence to the contrary, Grace turns back to the bible, refusing to believe in supernatural things. But she realises she’s going to have to get the priest in to help.

First revelation and decision

The first big reveal is that Anne has been telling the truth — there do seem to be ghosts in the house. We see a bit of emotional growth when Grace apologises to Anne. Grace realises this for herself when she locks the piano lid then goes back to find it open seconds later. Curtains are drawn when they shouldn’t be.

Plan

More bible lessons for the children.

Opponent’s plan and main counterattack

This is a waiting game. (As Roger Ebert wrote:It’s not a freak show but a waiting game, in which an atmosphere of dread slowly envelops the characters–too slowly.) Mrs Mills knows that eventually the other side will provide enough evidence to provide Grace with her revelation.

Drive

Grace realises the house is indeed haunted so she runs out into the fog to find the priest who will supposedly bless the house and fix everything. If my theory about the agoraphobia is right, it would take desperation for Grace to run out like this.

Attack by ally

Mrs Mills gently challenges Grace at various points by dropping hints about her being dead, but she as she tells Mr Tuttle, she must come to the realisation on her own, because she won’t accept being told the truth. This is part of the religious theme of the story; in some ways it seems to contradict the Roman Catholic teachings, but in other ways it has a religious message: You have to experience spirituality for yourself; you can’t really accept spiritual things simply by being told.

Apparent defeat

It seems Grace has lost everything when her daughter is defiant. Grace can’t control the lighting in her house, doesn’t know who the intruders are (suspects they’re war criminals) and even begins to suspect the house servants of wrongdoing. She has no one as an ally. She is especially defeated when her husband leaves for a second time. Could anything else be worse for this character?

Obsessive drive, changed drive, and motive

Grace is so obsessed with protecting her house and children that she takes out a gun. There’s a great scary moment when she is holding the gun and opens a door. (If you saw it in a theatre you may well have jumped!)

Second revelation and decision

Grace realises she needs to be a little softer on Anne. This comes after the scene in which she attacks her when dressed in her confirmation dress. Grace is starting to question her own sanity. She is able to say sorry to her daughter thinking her daughter is asleep. This is the very beginning of her new psychological state. The former Grace was not the sort of woman who could ever apologise to her own children.

Audience revelation

The audience is shown that there are gravestones in the yard, and that they are being covered by  leaves. We’re likely to guess that the house servants are dead. (The graves look old, covered in moss.) Perhaps we know one party is dead, but we’re not sure who. (It all depends on how many ghost stories you have read.)

Third revelation and decision

I lose count of the various revelations, but this is the point where the hero usually works out the opponent’s true identity. I suppose the third revelation takes place in the seance scene. Surely Grace realises she’s the ghost right there. (These steps really need to be shuffled round a bit to be put into the correct order.)

Gate, gauntlet, visit to death

The removal of the curtains is the throwing down of the gauntlet. If sunlight means death to her children, it means a kind of death to Grace also.

Battle

Grace scares the house servants off the property with a gun, convinced that they are playing mind games with her. They’re not surprised that the curtains have gone missing, so she suspects them of taking them down.

the others battle scene

the others battle scene 2

Grace realises the servants are ghosts when she is finds the book of the dead (which of course has come up earlier in the film — Grace asked for it to be removed from the house). This is a wonderful prop to use in film because it’s so visual. If this were a novel, such a visual revelation probably wouldn’t be quite so necessary. The servants turn up again after the children have made the same discovery via their grave stones. The ghost servants tell Grace she had better go and talk to ‘them’. (On the other side, the new owners of the house are holding a seance.) Grace is furious about this and creates a bit of a poltergeist scene.

Self-revelation

It’s only when she’s huddling with her children after this battle that the events of ‘that day’ come back to her and she realises she, too, is dead. It is at this point the audience may remember how the story opened — with Grace screaming and then sitting up in bed. What had caused that scream? Now we know.

Moral decision

Now that Grace has ‘experienced’ spirituality she probably won’t stick so rigidly to the bible, and we can believe she’s not going to continue to bring her children up in strict, Victorian fashion. Now that she has had several self-revelations she will probably be a different kind of mother. (Though the past is the best predictor of the future…)

New equilibrium

The family now has the house to themselves, though Mrs Mills says others will come — sometimes they’ll feel them, other times they won’t.

the others bars
Grace watches the new occupants leave. The audience sees a real estate agent put another For Sale sign on this gate.

Norton’s Hut by John Marsden

Norton's Hut John Marsden

Norton’s Hut is an out-of-print Australian picture book, the second picture book written by John Marsden, and illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe.

When a young group of hikers gets lost in a blinding snow storm they find shelter in an abandoned hut. Inside the hut they find a man who ignores them and by morning has disappeared. After they are rescued, they question whether the strange events really occurred.

The following notes are from Genres In Children’s Literature: Lecture 04: Author and Illustrator Devices presented by David Beagley, La Trobe University, podcast available on iTunes U.

We often forget the tricks and techniques of illustrators, focusing only on the text. The reader must actively decode the sequence of elements to make meaning, whether those are letters or illustrations. Pictures in a picture book work similarly to words in a sentence. They follow a sequence: It has a vocabulary, a grammar. (Illustrated books use illustrations to illustrate a single point at that moment — it’s not a sequence.) So the grammar of pictures needs to be decoded. Text, on the other hand, can also have a visual effect, e.g. different shades of colour for shouting or whispering, variation in font size.

  • The cover of Norton’s Hut depicts a lonely, tiny hut. The weather contrasts with the window light. We know what time of day it is by the light in the sky. Gouldthorpe illustrates in a photorealistic way.  Illustrator Gouldthorpe is from Tasmania, though this book is not set in Tasmania. The cover gives clues, but whether the clues are accurate, we’ll have to read the book to see. Covers can be red herrings.
What Is A Red Herring?

Red herrings are false leads intended to keep the sleuth and the reader guessing, or send them off-course, making the big reveal more surprising.

This is a technique required in mysteries of all kinds.

  • The peritext can also contain specific elements to place the story. In picture books we often need the peritext because there’s nothing in the story to tell us, for example, that it is set in a concentration camp. Title pages are a part of the story itself.
  • The end papers in Norton’s Hut are a black and white depiction of a snow landscape.
  • On page one we see someone tramping. The POV positions the reader as if we are walking behind; we are one of them. “We caught our first glimpse of the hut late afternoon…” There are two pictures, one laid over top of the other. This is a montage effect often seen with photographs. You stick a lot of photos together to get a full panorama. This is for two slightly different effects: First it’s time-lapsed. It’s also to position you in relation to the characters. You’ve looking down on them. The reader gets the idea of the passing of time, the difficulty. The reader is encouraged to make judgement about the characters. What about the bird? It’s a crow or a raven, often used in literature, particularly old lit going back centuries, as a symbol of death, more specifically of battlefields. Why not a rosella or an orange belly parrot? The beautiful birds that we have through those eastern ranges of Victoria are not in the picture. The crow looks down on the group. This is particular use of form and structure and symbolism, where the picture gives suggestions. This POV gives an idea of the vastness of the landscape, and the loneliness of the group. The girl indicates something to the group and the reader is encouraged to turn the page. Now it changes hugely. A couple of things are emphasised. We continue this photo sequence as if it’s been put in a scrapbook. Wide angle shot, middle distance, close up. It’s now stormy. Was the girl pointing at the hut, at the sky, at the map? “Beyond the distant governors the clouds churned…” The words create an emotional/visual effect of storming and froth on the water. Overlapping of the pictures indicate sequence of action: things are moving quicker. Now they’re going down the hill. But they’re also disappearing. There’s an urgency to quick, catch up to them!
  • The next page is a good example of framing: Pointing out the thing that matters by having everything else around it focused on it. On the first (title?) page it is clearly the window with the light.
  • Next we go inside the hut. “We knocked and opened…” This sentence makes good use of commas, inserting hesitancy. This page makes use of lighting effect. Inside is the fire, to illuminate characters. We get side-lighting, looking down at them from the ceiling and up at them from the floor and how they’re silhouetted by the light. When we can’t see the face of the character (due to lighting) this seems ominous. The sentence with commas is followed by a tumbling type of long sentence. The words and pictures work together to change the pace and emotions of the characters. There is contrast in the words and contrast in the pictures. This is trying to make us think of something in particular. With half a face, just a nose and a cheek, this is all we’re going to see of this character’s face. We get the full face shots of the hikers, but this is all we see of him. Framing around the fireplace. “Outside, mist and cold and cloud flooded over the peak.” But the words explain that inside, they’re warm. So there’s contrast between inside and outside. The words carry more than just their dictionary meaning: Poetic devices: alliteration and other repetition of sound, repetition by use of similar meaning words, words with onomatopoeic resonance, metaphor “the terror of gust”, “snow stung at the door”.
  • The pictures get more claustrophobic: inside sleeping bags, inside the hut, enclosed by the white frame.
  • The illustrations reflect the influence of cinema. Closer and closer and closer views. Individual close ups of characters. The slow, wide-angle pan. This story uses a lot of cinema technique.
  • “In the morning the man had gone, but we…stayed three days trapped inside the hut.” What’s the mystery? Again time lapse photography is used to depict the passing of time. There is a series of photos again showing the lapse of time. They’re looking out the window, and they’ve found things to do: Braiding hair, looking out the window, brushing teeth. We also have the idea of scrapbooking and diaries.
  • The red herring: There are clues in each picture to the resolution of the story. You only see them when you go back from the end of the story and realise what those clues are. Some are red-herrings and some scream out, ‘This is what the story’s about.’ But the reader doesn’t know on first reading.
  • The final image reflects the first: We’ve returned to the sweeping vista — freedom at last. There’s been a change in colour from the yellows and browns to the sky-blues. There’s been a change in tension — a release after the storm. Continuing the release of tension, the characters do a lot of hiking — a lot more action. Again there is the time-lapse technique, and a POV which puts the reader in relation to the characters again.
  • But looking back, the characters can’t find the hut. The reader’s eye is drawn to where the hut ought to be, with the characters gazing. There’s even a little photo superimposed over the top of it — a telescope view, pulling it out from where it is in the scene to highlight that bit.
  • “We camped that night by clinker’s cold lake…”  This story is open-ended, no resolution, yet you’re given a resolution. Red herrings: ‘Christmas 1955’. The shadow puppetry that they’re doing — a wolf. The little match game could almost be a swastika. (But neither of these last two things have anything to do with the story.) The reader contributes as much to the story as the illustrator and writer. The story that you enjoy may not necessarily be the same story that other people are getting. Don’t ever assume there is only one story in any given book. There are as many stories as there are people to read it.

Authors and illustrators make very deliberate choices. Would this story have worked if Gouldthorpe had used cartoon/comic characters, or little animals rather than humans? Probably not as well. The photorealism allows the reader to place ourselves in this situation. Picture books for older readers such as this one include intertextuality (cinema references) and explores sophisticated emotion. When reading a picture book, read the whole book. Don’t just read the words. As readers grow older it is presumed that words become more dominant than pictures. As we get older we want more from our books. We find them in words, but also in pictures.