In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the 'missing' begin to show themselves.
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In 1921, in London, the arrogant and skeptical Florence Cathcart is famous for exposing hoaxes and helping the police to arrest con artists. The stranger Robert Mallory tells her that the headmaster of a boarding school in Rookford had invited her to travel to Cumbria to investigate a ghost that is frightening the pupils to death. He also tells that many years ago there was a murder in the estate and recently pupil Walter Portman had died. The reluctant Florence finally accepts to go to Cumbria. On arrival, she is welcomed by governess Maud and the boy Thomas Hill. Soon Florence discovers what had happened to Walter and then the students, teachers and staff are released on vacation, and Florence remains alone with Robert, Maud and Tom in the school. Florence is ready to leave the boarding school when strange things happen, leaving Florence scared. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
(at around 20 mins) When Miss Cathcart is investigating the classroom where many of the ghost sightings occurred, for a brief moment on the chalkboard behind her there is a quotation that says: "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old." This is a line from the poem "For the Fallen" by British poet Laurence Binyon. Published in 1914, it was meant as an ode to the British soldiers dying in the First World War. This hints, among other things, at connections to the boys who were shown earlier in the film in the school photos, many of whom presumably died during the War. See more »
After finding her cigarette case in the pillow that she's ripped open, Florence goes outside with feathers stuck in her hair. In the next shot, however, the feathers are gone and her hair is clean again. See more »
Between 1914 and 1919, one million people lost their lives to influenza. Society was more ignorant back then. Science and rational thinking were not then the forces they are today. People were open to anything, including the possibility of ghosts.
Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) stands out in the London of the twenties for being a free-thinker and a debunker of the supernatural. A boarding school teacher (Dominic West) implores her to visit his school following the death of a pupil, where unexplained sightings are being reported.
Florence isn't a total sceptic. She leaves some room for belief, which caused me to note she is agnostic towards ghosts. Essentially, there are two stories. One is concerning the death of the pupil. The other is more interesting and distinguishes it from a deluge of other horror films which have vanished from my mind as quickly as the ghostly apparitions in them. It focuses on Florence herself, and I shall say no more as I will not spoil it for you.
This is not a scary film; there are several portents but few frights. What there is plenty of, however, is suspense. Nick Murphy, in his feature-length debut, also manages to sustain a melancholy mood, crucial for his story.
It's no surprise that Rebecca is the daughter of Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company. She commands the screen in a way which would cause many of her peers to blush with envy. Her character is a difficult one to personify.
Dominic West, he with the simian countenance from the groundbreaking crime series 'The Wire', is very good as the guilt-ridden soldier-turned-teacher. Imelda Staunton is effective as the school matron. She has that look in her eye which is trying to tell us something.
I'm calling this a grown-up film because the spiritual element becomes auxiliary. Guilt and loneliness take over as leading themes. Murphy has the acuity to drop the ghost story because otherwise it would be a simulacrum of other period chillers and focuses on a story of locked emotion. The denouement is clever and original. The penultimate revelation would have been a superb ending on its own, so having a double-twist is all the more impressive.
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