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dir Jordan Scott
scr Ben Court, Caroline Ip, Jordan Scott
prd Kwesi Dickson, Andrew Lowe, Julie Payne, Rosalie Swedlin, Christine Vachon
with Eva Green, Juno Temple, Maria Valverde, Imogen Poots, Clemmie Dugdale, Ellie Nunn, Zoe Carroll, Adele McCann, Sinead Cusack, Helen Norton, Dierdre Donnelly, Barbara Adair
release UK 4.Dec.09
The most glamorous diving coach ever: Green
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Gorgeously photographed, sharply acted and hauntingly moody, this period boarding-school drama keeps our interest even though the story is extremely thin. And there doesn't really seem to be much of a point to it.
It's 1934 England, and a group of girls rule their isolated school as members of the diving club coached by the impossibly glamorous Miss G (Green). Di (Temple) is the leader of the pack, and she's the one threatened when an aristocratic Spanish girl, Fiamma (Valverde), moves into their dorm room. Fiamma is beautiful and worldly, and is also an expert diver, so the girls are immediately threatened by her presence. And while they start making her life miserable, Miss G is having her own unexpected reaction.
The film's strong pedigree shows: director Jordan is daughter of Ridley, who executive produced with Uncle Tony. And the verdant cinematography is by their accalimed pal John Mathieson. It looks absolutely amazing, and Jordan draws earthy performances from her cast, including yearning physicality that's especially strong in the swimming and diving sequences. This is a story of jagged glares, longing glances and suspicious stares, so it gives the cast members plenty to chew on.
Green proves to be a thoroughly adept diva, giving Miss G so much arch, camp attitude that the screen can barely contain her. She glides through scenes as if she exists on another plane, which is exactly right for the character. So as she becomes naggingly unhinged, Green is allowed to go way over the top. Meanwhile, she's balanced by marvellously textured performances from the girls. At the centre, Temple and Valverde are excellent.
So it's frustrating that the script is so ethereal, resorting to poetry and legends when the writers can't muster any other way to explore their important themes. The darkly lush visual style hints heavily that this isn't a story that will end with teary happiness at an emotive "Captain, My Captain" scene (although there's a twist on that). So as the repetitive plot approaches the finale, we keep waiting for something meaningful to happen. Instead, we're left with a beautifully shot and acted exploration of female willpower. And not much else.
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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