#327/ 365 – ‘The Awakening’ – 107 mins
Cinema Challenge #123 / 115
In the London of 1921, World War One and the flu epidemic have left the bereaved vulnerable to cruel con artists who pretend to be in contact with the ‘afterlife’. Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) has made it her mission to expose the fraudsters. When she’s called in by matron Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) and teacher Robert Mallory (Dominic West) to investigate the sighting of a ghost prior to the mysterious death of a pupil at their remote boarding school, Florence arrives with all the scientific paraphernalia of debunker’s trade. But then she witnesses something that challenges all her assumptions.
The Awakening is a good old-fashioned British ghost story with some effective set-pieces, a seance opening sequence. Though despite the aforementioned and couple of minor jumps, what lets the film down throughout is its lack of ambition to be genuinely frightening.
Nonetheless there is much to admire in the film. Director Nick Murphy and Spanish cinematographer Eduard Grau serve up some beautiful production values from its desaturated grey colour palette to give the film an atmospheric chilly feel. Rebecca Hall turns in a terrific gripping to watch performance as the well-educated ghost-sceptic investigator, Florence. There’s also strong support from Dominic West with him investing some real strength and dignity in his damaged war veteran turned school master character. While with some great facial expressions Imelda Staunton is perfectly cast as the schools matron.