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20 November 2011

Coming Back to Haunt You

A few busy weekends in a row have meant that I'm behind on movies at the moment, as well as blog posts. I did get the chance to see The Awakening this afternoon, in the poky little room upstairs at the Mayfair Curzon (the one that makes you feel like you're in the private screening room of one of the area's mansions). This turned out to be quite atmospheric because as well as the main door to the screen, there is a little staff-only back door and throughout the movie, there were little noises and voices filtering through.

I thought about seeing The Awakening at the London Film Festival because a) I like a good scary movie and b) with Mad Men still not back on TV, six episodes of Dominic West in The Hour wasn't quite enough of a Don Draper substitute for me. Rebecca Hall stars as Florence Cathcart, who is a kind of 1920s, female Jonathan Creek. After debunking a seance séance at the start of the film, she returns home to find Robert Mallory (West), a teacher at a northern boarding school, waiting for her. He has been sent to persuade her to come to investigate the recent death of a young boy at the school and to banish the ghost everyone thinks was responsible (supposedly another young boy, who died a few years earlier when the school was still a private house). Mallory himself remains skeptical of Florence's skepticism and it is clear that they both have troubled pasts.

Reluctantly, Florence agrees and off they yomp to Cumbria, where she whips out her ghost-busting equipment. The boys are a little reticent about her presence but at least matron (Imelda Staunton), is glad Florence is there—she keeps a copy of Florence's book next to her Bible, she says. After a few days, Florence thinks she has solved the mystery, identifying the real 'ghost' and explaining the circumstances surrounding the boy's death. But as half-term arrives and most of the boys return to their homes, the spooky happenings continue, pushing Florence to question whether her rigid, rational world-view is in fact valid. Meanwhile, she must fight demons from her own past and deal with her growing feelings for Mallory.

With strong performances from the three leads and a strong sense of unease and tension throughout, I thought The Awakening worked well as a fairly straightforward ghost story. There is a big twist, which I half-anticipated (although I thought it was going to go in a different direction), and I think it worked well enough. Daniel Pemberton's score was also suitably haunting. A good film to see on a cold night, before hurrying home to warm up and unwind in front of a fireplace!

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