In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the 'missing' begin to show themselves.
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In 1921, in London, the arrogant and skeptical Florence Cathcart is famous for exposing hoaxes and helping the police to arrest con artists. The stranger Robert Mallory tells her that the headmaster of a boarding school in Rookford had invited her to travel to Cumbria to investigate a ghost that is frightening the pupils to death. He also tells that many years ago there was a murder in the estate and recently pupil Walter Portman had died. The reluctant Florence finally accepts to go to Cumbria. On arrival, she is welcomed by governess Maud and the boy Thomas Hill. Soon Florence discovers what had happened to Walter and then the students, teachers and staff are released on vacation, and Florence remains alone with Robert, Maud and Tom in the school. Florence is ready to leave the boarding school when strange things happen, leaving Florence scared. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
(at around 20 mins) When Miss Cathcart is investigating the classroom where many of the ghost sightings occurred, for a brief moment on the chalkboard behind her there is a quotation that says: "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old." This is a line from the poem "For the Fallen" by British poet Laurence Binyon. Published in 1914, it was meant as an ode to the British soldiers dying in the First World War. This hints, among other things, at connections to the boys who were shown earlier in the film in the school photos, many of whom presumably died during the War. See more »
When Florence is sitting in the kitchen talking to the boy, the blanket she is wrapped in moves up and down between shots. See more »
With the recent release of The Woman in Black, another English ghost story might seem a bit unnecessary. It's not something that has often been done well, with 2001's The Others being the only notable exception which springs to mind. But there is something intriguing and undoubtedly creepy about the concept and this is what will draw audiences to The Awakening.
The film is the debut of director Nick Murphy, who had previously only worked in television. It is also a BBC production, and as has come to be expected, it is very well presented. The cinematography takes on a desaturated look, drained of colour. This sets the tone for the next hour and 45 minutes and coupled with a good use of locations, gives the film an authentic early twentieth-century feel.
Kicking off, the opening of The Awakening feels a little clichéd as Rebecca Hall (known for her roles in The Prestige & The Town) plays a paranormal skeptic, invited to investigate ghostly sightings at an all-boys boarding school. We're given some teasers about her troubled past and the direction the plot is heading already feels quite predictable - conjouring images of the protagonist creeping about at night with a lantern, jumping at shadows while slowly coming to terms with her personal demons. You wouldn't be far wrong there but it's about the journey, not the destination, as the saying goes.
It doesn't take long for The Awakening to jump into the action and the lantern creeping soon begins. The film manages to build some tension and there are big but predictable jumps. The letdown, unfortunately, is that it struggles to generate and sustain a creepy vibe. It might be because the 'other' is already defined for us - we're well aware our protagonist is ghost hunting - and this just makes it too obvious. But it does have its moments there is one particularly memorable setpiece involving a dolls house.
Hall puts in a good shift in the lead role and does well not to come across as some excitable participant in an interwar edition of Most Haunted. She's joined by Dominic West (The Wire & 300) and Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake & the Harry Potter films). This is a good show of British acting talent and it's difficult to fault their performances.
A good cast is never enough to hold up a film though, and sadly, the screenplay lets the film down. Frankly, it just isn't that interesting or original and the pacing feels off. The first 45 minutes of the film are worked at a rate of knots but this peters out and eventually it just feels like more and more of the same with all intrigue being lost. It picks up again towards the climax but the ending is dragged out to the point that you'll be willing the movie to end.
The Awakening is a polished and well-rounded film but this won't be enough to satisfy an audience expecting to be properly spooked. Unless you really like this sort of thing - or you've exhausted all other cinematic possibilities - you'd be better off avoiding it.
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