Before watching “Never Let Me Go”, I was able to watch “Cracks” a few days before and boy, I was I caught off-guard by this low-key indie flick. To describe the film over-all I would say ‘brilliantly disturbing’. Although I’m writing this movie review out of my appreciation for this debut film by Jordan Scott and it is not with spite or disgust. If you haven’t watched it, I suggest that you should not read further the review in the link below if you’re the type who doesn’t like spoilers. If you are, well, you’re very much welcome to read on my opinions of this cracky film. Seriously.
To begin with, “Cracks” is a directional debut of Jordan Scott, the daughter of Ridley Scott who we know as director of Alien (1979), Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator and Hannibal. This film is a period film set in the early 1930s at an elite, austere and remote all girls’ boarding school somewhere between Scotland and Ireland. The story is centered on the most elite clique of girls and also members of the school’s diving team who is lead by Di (Juno Temple), the captain with a strong personality and guided by their glamorous diving teacher Miss G (Eva Green). The girls compete for the attention of the beautiful and enigmatic Miss G who beguiles the girls with her tales of the real world by her travels and inspires them to go beyond the conventions and teaches them about the ways of the world.
Miss G isn’t like the other teachers of the school. She’s very younger compared to the other faculty and also more liberated and wordly, traits which challenges the norms and conventions of the school’s community. For the students, it is a blessing to have her as a school mistress with her loose, comfortable ways which breaks away from the atmosphere of their school as a prison colony and strictness. For Di and her posse, Miss G’s favorites, she’s the older sister figure, a confidante and someone they aspire to be compared to your traditional matriarchal school mistress.
The films hints that Di, played astoundingly by Juno Temple, the cleverest and best diver of the group and Miss G’s relationship is closer than what is strictly appropriate. Di shows an intense admiration and probably feels more for the seductive Miss G and Miss G seems to reciprocate and thrives on Di’s attention particularly. Overall, the effect of the character Miss G has on the girls is she helps fill their melancholy and loneliness of parental abandonment and the girls, particularly Di, love the attention Miss G showers them with.
Suddenly, a new girl Fiamma (played by the beautiful Maria Valverde) comes into the picture and upsets the balance in the sanctuary of the girls. Fiamma is a daughter of a Spanish aristocrat and is forced to leave Spain due to undisclosed reasons. The headmistress firmly said that Fiamma is to be incorporated in the diving team, which also means being with Di’s posse and the girls aren’t too happy about it. Upon her arrival Fiamma, aside from her exotic beauty and feminine, well-mannered ways, is obviously more woman than most of the girls at the school and she catches Miss G’s attentions. Fiamma’s presence threatens the hierarchy of the group (beating Di as top diver) but also seems to spark something within Miss G.
Di, pulls rank as team captain and lays down the rules in an attempt to assert her position but Miss G is spellbound by Fiamma’s beauty and maturity and becomes obsessed with her new favorite girl. As the film progresses we see Miss G showering Fiamma with attention, presenting herself as the same time as the embodiment of feminine mystique and sensuality but Fiamma is resistant and hostile. The plot turns into a battle of wills of Miss G, Di and Fiamma and the film also reveals that Miss G is not all that she seems to be after all.
What I loved about his film is that the characters are constantly shifting their roles from being a hero, victim and a villain. It definitely added to the gripping atmosphere the film was going for and this ever changing role for the characters gives the plot the motion and the pacing it needs to express and showcase each character’s dimensions and intensity.
As the movie went on, I was definitely forming a lump in the back of my throat. I was unsettled by the sexual atmosphere against the beautiful and picturesque background of the film and as the growing sense of murky mystery grows, it left me definitely ‘into’ the film. Juno Temple’s played her character head on and was very impressive in enhancing her character’s emotional struggles definitely caught my eye. Of course I can’t overlook Eva Green performance on her character. Green was able to take me with her downhill journey once the revelation of her character’s many flaws and idiosyncrasies is revealed especially that climactic moment of the sequence of the ‘Midnight Feast’ and the ‘Pursuit-at-the-Ravine’. That definitely left me gasping “NO MOTHER EFFIN WAAAAY”.
“Cracks” explores the themes of female sexual repression, lesbianism, hints of mental illnesses and goes into the darker theme of child abuse. It’s quite unsettling and as I’ve said earlier, disturbingly brilliant for the fact that despite the urges of turning away, I was definitely engrossed in this movie. The performances were powerful enough; a sense of magical realism was just right for the whole film and carefully assembled. I love the good but weird feeling it left in my stomach and it’s definitely an absorbing tale I’d recommend to others who’re looking for something unexpected and a good build up.