Posted by: greercn | November 21, 2011

The Awakening (2011)

Finally! This is a tremendously entertaining and very traditional ghost story, with a sumptuous visual feel and twists and turns that will make you jump.

From the first scenes, you are pulled into England in 1921. Yes, there are some real anachronisms. For a start, hardly anyone on the screen wears a hat and everybody did then. The clothes are just plain wrong for the time. 

Despite this, the style and story pull you in. Rebecca Hall is just wonderful as Florence Cathcart, an educated woman who does not believe in ghosts. Florence has grief and pain in her past and the losses of World War I are key to the power of this movie.

Dominic West plays Robert Mallory, a teacher from a school for boys in Cumbria who asks Florence to investigate hauntings. Florence says no, but in the next scene we are in beautiful scenery – surely this is Scotland and not Cumbria – and moving into a fabulous building, full of children.

Florence sets up equipment to trap people pretending to be ghosts. Things go bump. A sinister doll’s house of the school building shows scenes of the future and the past.

I don’t want to give too much away. I didn’t see the surprises before they happened. There is much that is familiar here from films about phantoms and that helps to create the illusion that you know what is about to take place.

Imelda Staunton is extraordinary as a matron figure.  Joseph Mawle plays a sinister figure. Isaac Hempstead Wright plays the profoundly affecting and lonely child, Tom.

Nick Murphy’s taut direction gives the whole a gorgeous sense of place and threat. Daniel Pemberton’s music is perfect, enhancing the growing fear felt by the audience.

I saw this at the absolutely gorgeous and truly haunted Notting Hill Gate Picturehouse. The seats are so comfy and I enjoyed an excellent glass of white wine served in a real glass and perfect chocolate ice cream, during the movie. Where else can you view a film in perfect comfort with excellent refreshments?

Do go see it. It deserves to be seen on a big screen and it is enormous fun. Five out of five, if I am giving it a rating. Hooray for the BBC and Studio Canal + for making such a treat.


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