I love Rebecca Hall! There I said it and it’s out there and so now I don’t have to apologize later. Ever since I saw Hall’s performance in The Prestige (2006) I’ve been totally captivated by her. The same can be said for her work in The Town (2010) which for me was the only reason to watch the film (although Jeremy Renner was also pretty damn good), so it should not come as any surprise that when I heard that she was taking center stage in the film The Awakening (2011) I was there. Or at least I thought I would be. The film never played theatrical near me so I never got the chance to see her take control on the big screen (yet, at least) so instead I had to wait for the film to finally make its way to disc.
The film concerns a debunk-er of the supernatural by the name of Florence Cathcart (Hall) who has seen her fare share of charlatans but never a real supernatural event. Troubled by memories of her own past as an orphan she soon finds her way to a prestigious London school for orphaned boys to help them dispel the rumors of the school being haunted after a young boy is found dead on the school grounds. Thinking at first that the whole incident can be dispelled away by a couple boys whose prank went a little too far, Florence begins to see and feel things that shouldn’t be there and soon she begins to wonder whether or not the school is really haunted and that she is experiencing something truly supernatural that will ultimately change her forever. Along for the journey is Robert Mallory (Dominic West) and Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) who work at the school and hold secrets of their own and who try to help Florence uncover the truth.
Written by Stephen Volk and Nick Murphy (who also directs) this film is very tight in structure and moves at a brisk pace despite the haunting imagery. It’s not just the characters that hold secrets but the place itself and Florence finds herself discovering details about herself that she had thought had long since been buried. Despite the fact that the film offers very little for people versed in ghost stories and haunted house films, Hall does a terrific job in allowing the audience to discover everything from her perspective and her performance is so genuine that you can’t help but be captivated. Also (just so you know I don’t just love Hall) Stauton gives another great supporting performance. This film has a little bit of The Haunting (1963) mixed with The Others (2001) and for people who loved those films they will find a lot to love about this one as well.