The Awakening is an old-fashioned ghost story which which is more supernatural drama than horror. Set in 1921 England, renowned supernatural hoax debunker Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) travels to Rookwood country boarding school in the Lake District, on the behest of teacher Robert Malory (Dominic West), in order to uncover the truth behind the sightings of a child ghost which is terrorizing the children.
The school is then closed for holidays while Robert, Florence, the long-serving matron Maud (Imelda Staunton) and a lonely orphan child called Tom (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), remain behind and investigate the phenomena.
The Awakening comes across as a solid, well crafted and directed movie, which receives a further boost from its fine acting, not least by the infinitely watchable Rebecca Hall, who commands the screen admirably.
This ghostly, Whodunit then manages to build up a good level of suspense and ambiguity, complete with a few creepy moments including the scenes involving a doll’s house, right until the last third of the movie. Unfortunately, that’s when the hitherto rational, self-assured Florence Cathcart has to face the prospect that spirits might actually be real, sending her into a meltdown, while any tension previously created gets lost in the ensuing emotional melodrama and hysteria.
The Awakening subsequently spins out of control towards its final unshocking shock ending, as the fine art directing reaches an almost orchestral climax which may have made my great-great grandmother shift uncomfortably with apprehension on her birch-wood bergere armchair, but was way too histrionic for a modern audience.
Supernatural elements aside, The Awakening deals commendably with the themes of loneliness and loss, and although there was just one ghost in the story each of the characters are portrayed as battling their own ghosts of the past.
The longer it goes on, the dafter it becomes