This was a new streaming selection from Netflix one that I saw pop up one day. I'd never heard of the movie and clicked on it even though the poster wasn't one that immediately interested me but I am glad I did.
The reviews on this were fairly high:
Netflix – 3.6 stars average from a total of 34,714 viewers with a recommended rating for me of 4.3 stars
IMDB.com – 6.4 stars out of 10, from 21,251 viewers
Amazon.com – 3.5 stars out of 5 from 136 users
If you tend to go to other websites and read their reviews be careful, a number of the ones on this movie contain spoilers with no advance notice.
The IMDB.com description is:
In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the 'missing' begin to show themselves.
I'm not a particular fan of UK horror movies, particularly period ones, as they all seem to be filmed with the same, dreary lighting and The Awakening is no exception (as far as the lighting). In this area the film closely resembles the recent Daniel Radcliffe movie The Woman in Black.
However, the movies are not the same. The Woman in Black had a lot of scenes that would make you jump. The Awakening doesn't have as many.
The movie clearly had a relatively big budget to work with and it show in all aspects from the acting to the cinematography. There are no "really big" actors in the movie by American standards but you do recognize many of the faces. One of the young boys at the boarding school is played by Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran from Game of Thrones). The Headmaster at the school is Dominic West who has played in John Carter, 300 and Chicago, and the matron is Imelda Staunton who so ably played the role of despicable Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. The lead role of the troubled Florence Cathcart is played by Rebecca Hall, who does a fantastic job, playing a role that is both soulful as well as possessing an underlying sensuality (sensuousness?).
The movie is intertwined with World War I, which is unusual in itself. Early on the headmaster shows a number of pictures of the students at the school over the years and it takes you a little aback when you realize many of those same students would have died in the trenches during the war. To be honest, I usually don't pick up on these type of things until I watch a movie a second time or am sitting back thinking through the movie but in this case the war is such a part of the background of the movie that this fact popped into my mind immediately.
The twist endings aren't really such a twist, I think most will see at least a part of it coming but the movie really doesn't suffer because of this. the movie is so good that a twist isn't necessary to carry it and the multiple story lines involved in the ending keep it fresh. The actual ending of the movie may leave you confused for a few minutes but the makers did an excellent job of wrapping it up with the smallest of details, a boy stopping to tie his shoe.
Is the movie perfect? No, to an American watcher it drags a little at points and I personally didn't care for the ending. However, it is top notch for what it is supposed to be and if it ever leaves the free streaming queue I will buy it for my DVD library.
A solid 4.5 star movie as long as you don't require blood and guts to make you like a horror film.