The Awakening Review

Are your eyes wide open?

Nick Murphy’s debut feature, The Awakening, begins by setting the scene of 1920’s London.

Influenza at the beginning of the century, coupled with The First World War, are estimated to have claimed over one million lives from the capital alone.

As loved ones, friends and even family struggle to cope with their grief, the belief in ghosts and the spirit world are on the rise.

And so are the number of charlatans seeking to gain from other people’s loss.

Fortunately for any souls still being of sound body and mind, there’s an educated woman who won’t rest until she’s uncovered these fraudsters for who they really are; Florence Cathcart.

After yet another successful sting operation where Cathcart uncovers the charade of theatrical bunch of hustlers, Cathcart is invited to bring her detective skills to a boy’s boarding school by one Robert Mallory, a square jawed history teacher with a seriously square limp.

For years, the school have turned a blind eye to some alleged ghostly goings on, but after the death of one of their pupils the Headmaster decides the school needs to restore the parents’ faith in their institution.

Initially reluctant, Cathcart eventually relents as she cannot bare the thought of these ghostly myths being perpetuated and agrees to investigate.

What Cathcart discovers at the school is far more than she bargained for, as the ultimate ghost hunter begins to remember just why she’s so intent on she believes.

The Awakening is another in a long line of spooky thrillers that rely on the tried and tested method of sudden grotesque images mixed with quiet bit, loud bit formula to provoke the desired response out of the audience.

But Murphy executes these tricks skilfully enough to keep you guessing right until the very end of the film.

Rebecca Hall, who’ll you’ll most likely remember from many a good film without quite recalling her name, takes on the mantle of Florence Cathcart.

Unquestionably attractive enough to be cast in many a lead role, Hall’s rather plain beauty means she can be an actress rather than a movie star, and judged on her talent.

And her portrayal of Cathcart, a female sleuth whose intelligence is still questioned by her painfully inferior male counterparts in a world still untrusting of women in authority, is pitch perfect.

Personally, I’ve never had such problems accepting women in authority. And if you knew my stepmother, as well as her terrifyingly accurate aim, you’d understand why.

Dominic West carries on his transformation from tv fame to big screen leading man as the handsome and stoic history teacher, Robert Mallory, who has limped on with his life after surviving the war but can’t seem to shake off his own guilt.

And Imelda Staunton provides the soothing presence of Maud Hill, the school nanny who’s been looking after the children that stay there since the year dot.

If you’re looking for chills and thrills in this traditionally scary season, you’ll find no better film than The Awakening to provide this.

But if you prefer keeping your eyes firmly shut in life, I’m not sure you’ll appreciate the wake up call.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

November 2011