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Archive for December 8th, 2009

Cracks

Set in a small exclusive girls boarding school in the 1930s, the diving team are the elite of the school, a sort of pre war Heathers. A more tight knit group than in many other films they don’t seem to have much to do with the rest of the school. Led by Di Radfield (Juno Temple), the best diver and most popular girl. As a group they all idolise their teacher Miss G (Eva Green), especially Di. Younger than the other teachers, Miss G seems daring and fearless, stylishly dressed and well travelled. The arrival of a new girl Fiamma (Maria Valverde) shakes the relationships and resolve of the group to the core and the cracks of the title start to appear. Fiamma inspires instant admiration in Miss G and Jealousy in former favourite Di, this begins a chain of events that are played out in beautifully made melodrama.

The setting is key to the success of the film. In an early scene when Fiamma is arriving we see the school from a distance, a large grey stone Georgian building, it looks magnificent glinting in the sunlight, the closer we get the more it starts to look like a prison. This feeling isn’t changed when we get inside, as we march thought the dimly lit narrow corridors with the new arrival it is like a new inmate arriving in a prison film. That is in essence what the characters here are, virtually abandoned by their parents, these kids are shut away on an island school. For Fiamma, it goes a stage further, sent from her own country because of a romantic indiscretion with a young man of less than suitable status, and a Marxist (the film is set within a year of the start of the Spanish Civil war). To the films credit the nature of the relationship is never fully explored leaving sufficient mystery. The same goes for the rest of the story, most notably Miss G, there are suggestions but just enough mystery. In many ways despite the dark tone the film as a very traditional old fashioned feel to it.

A lot has been made of first time director Jordan Scott, daughter of Ridley Scott. On the whole, she has crafted a really well made film, the mood, tone and pace is perfect the photography is sumptuous and beautiful (aided by cinematographer John Mathieson who has also collaborated with Ridley Scott). She also gets fantastic performances from actresses of hugely varying experience ranging from real school girls in their first film up to the hugely experienced Sinéad Cusack. Juno Temple who has been in films as varied as Atonement and Year One. In many ways she is the star of the film with the greatest amount of screen time however the real star is Eva Green. Appearing in just one film a year since her debut The Dreamers (2003) (including Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven), Green has actually made eight very different films. At her best when playing unhinged characters like Isabelle in The Dreamers and Emilia in Franklyn, Cracks is possibly her best ever performance.

The film is truly engaging but lacks sufficient originality to be a great film, I does however do what it does well enough to be a really good one.

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