The film opens with Florence Cathcart (Hall), an author who exposes supernatural fraud, helping the London police bust a phony séance. But after she has exposed the crooked medium and a young, child accomplice, she is wracked with — guilt? disappointment? Frances has her own ghosts, which include a lover she jilted after he left to fight in the Great War — and subsequently died. But back to work. A handsome boarding school teacher and World War I veteran, Robert Mallory (Dominic West), comes to seek her help in either explaining or debunking a series of sightings of a mysterious child at the school. The teachers, students, and their parents are all rattled, especially since the recent death of a student named Walter.
|Florence (Rebecca Hall) has cool tools for ghostbusting|
|Robert (Dominic West) fishes Florence out of the lake after a ghostly hand tries to pull her under|
|Tom (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Maud the housekeeper (Imelda Staunton)|
The Awakening takes a few twists and turns in its final act which are the script equivalent of a scene of the ghost jumping out of the shadows. The twists are a bit far-fetched, but they also admittedly, work. The movie moves slowly, almost hypnotically, as Florence sorts out what is real, from the current demons haunting her, to the demons from her past which she must reconcile. Rebecca Hall (Please Give, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Prestige) has been a favorite actress for a while, and she really owns this movie. The camera loves her in close-up, watching her every move, as does her obsessed ghost, and the audience as well. Can a horror movie have a happy ending? Maybe, if the emphasis is on a woman truly coming into her own, on putting all of her ghosts behind her, and becoming truly independent of her fears and the past.