[This is Nigel Smith's first movie review from the Toronto International Film Festival. You can read about his experience overall at jerkmagazine.net.]
Director Jordan Scott has both pros and cons working against her for her first feature length film, Cracks. On the plus side, Scott is daughter to visionary director Ridley Scott, who also footed a portion of the bill for the production’s costs through his production company Scott Free.
But with prestigious roots comes closer scrutiny and higher expectations among critics and industry watchdogs. The fact Scott (the daughter) manages to evade a disaster and churn out a thoroughly engaging film is a hopeful sign for a long career to come.
Set in an elite boarding school in 1930’s England, Cracks is a simmering Gothic tale centered on teacher Miss G’s (Eva Green) close relationship with her young female students. Unlike the stuffy headmistresses that keep a tight rein on the girls, Miss G is portrayed by Green as a modern woman, intent on letting the girls come into their own without reservation.
But from the first frames an insidious tone is set through Miss G’s peering stares and unnerving sense of possession. The girls seem blind to her undisclosed intentions, but a new Spanish student, Fiamma, sees right through her, throwing Miss G off kilter.
For her first feature Scott shows admirable skill in setting mood and tone. The lush vistas surrounding the boarding school are breathtaking yet ominous. Through a foreboding score and measured pace established by Scott, the intents of Miss G are never spelled out, in an effort to keep the pervading mystery of the plot intact.
Scott sidesteps slightly in sequences where she employs excessive slow-mo, allowing the visuals to detract from an otherwise engrossing narrative. Thankfully her nimble young cast and Green’s seductive performance more than make up for the showy antics that get the best of Scott.