Another in a line of films this year that start with great flourish, yet can’t sustain ’till the end, THE AWAKENING is 4/5ths of a great, moody little piece with a tacked on conclusion that washes much of it away.
When it’s good, however, the film is a lot of fun. Set in 1921, the cloud of the Great War continues to hang over the children, many now orphaned. Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall in a fine turn) is brought in given her reputation as a “debunker of hoaxes”, helping to investigate rumblings of paranormal incidents. Trotting out the latest in steam punk ghostbusting gear, her job is complicated by a growing affection for a damaged yet dashing teacher (played deliciously and at times nakedly by THE WIRE’s Dominic West).
Murphy manages to sustain the misty, somber mood right ’till the point where we start getting answers. It’s a clear break when what the audience is expecting all along is simply proven, and we’re left with yet another ghost story with a neatly tied up ending.
Despite the flaws of plotting, there’s much to enjoy in both the presentation and interaction of the leads. THE AWAKENING isn’t exactly ground breaking, and it’s flaws are clear, but over all it’s a fairly satisfactory addition to the canon of modern Brit phantasmagoria.