The Awakening

Set in England 1921, The Awakening has as its backdrop the terrible aftermath of World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic that killed over a million people in Britain alone. The shell-shocked country is now swamped with fake clairvoyants and phoney seances, each playing to the desperate survivors’ guilt of those left behind. Into this mix comes Florence Cathcart (the lovely Rebecca Hall), an educated women, herself bereaved in the war, who’s an outspoken antispiritualist and general debunker of hoaxes. Florence is invited to visit a gothicky boy’s prep school, where ghosts are wandering the halls, and a child has apparently died of fright. Florence decides to take the case so the kids won’t have to live in fear, but as she continues to investigate the house, she begins to see that her reliance on science may not be enough to explain the strange phenomenon……..

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Oh yes. On paper it must’ve seemed like a good idea. The sepia-toned cinematography is first class, the sound-track is creepy, and the leads – Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton – are great. But it falls flat on the script which just isn’t scary. Sorry. You can tell it’s weak because it’s ambiguous at the end: Does she die? Is she herself a ghost? I found myself not much caring.

The Awakening filmed at the Palladian Lyme Park in Cheshire – you’ll probably recognize the exteriors as Pemberly, from the Beeb’s 1995 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.