Movie Review: The Awakening
Director: Nick Murphy
By: TJ Fowler
I recently saw some blurbs around the internet for the British movie called The Awakening and after reading its description I thought it sounded interesting and so I decided I would give it a view and see what was being woke up.
So what did I find with The Awakening? I found what seemed like a ghost story, wrapped in a psychological analysis story of the main character ,which was also wrapped in a multi-layered story that seemed at times would sink the movie with its effort to be too intellectual. Amazingly, the film is not sunk by all the twists and turns that it presents to the viewer and I even found that one story angle the movie presented later in the film was really interesting and didn’t see it coming in any form.
The movie starts out in 1921 after the First World War, in a time period that many people were turning to Spiritualism as a means to contact loved ones that had died. We see our main character Florence at a séance with all its mysticism and occult trappings one would expect in such a setting. Florence quickly exposes the séance as a fraud and in turn gets the charlatans arrested. As she is out on the street one woman from the séance who was genuinely trying to contact her dead daughter slaps her in the face and asks if she ever had a child. Later, Florence arrives back home and begins to cry in her adoptive mothers arms, because apparently each time she exposes a fraud there is something that dies in her because despite all of Florence’s belief in science and facts, there is a need in her to believe that there is something more after death, even though she won’t outright admit it.
This theme is the main crux of the film. Florence is the early 1920’s version of a ghost hunter and skeptic. It centers on her struggle to disprove hoax’s but also wanting to believe there is more but also hating herself each time she finds a fraud. All which stems from a traumatic experience she suffered and inflicted on someone in her past.
Florence is contacted soon after her exposure of the fake séance about a supposed ghost that is terrorizing young boys at a boarding school. Florence reluctantly accepts to look into the matter and travels to the countryside to determine who or what is behind the ghost sightings.
During the course of the film you have many sub-stories come out, that if not handled properly could overwhelm the viewer and make the film lose direction. As I stated earlier, for the most part this doesn’t happen and what we see is a main character who begins to have her belief system challenged a belief system that she had built around her to shield her and blind herself to certain truths.
It seems Florence represents those people who adopt a belief or ideal, whether they believe it or not, in this case skepticism or atheism to help her deal with certain past experiences. And the movie shows how one can be consumed by a belief system to try and prove something to themselves to a point they are empty inside. All of this in an attempt to justify or rationalize certain events in their lives or cope with a defining moment in their past.
The Awakening comes off as a ghost story, which it is, but it’s also a cleverly disguised self examination movie that goes into why we believe the way we do and the motivations behind our actions in life and how a certain event or events can shape our psyche and belief system for years to come.
The Awakening does have a few flaws that come from all the sub-plots in the film. They don’t drag the movie down to make it sub par but some of them also could have been left out too.
Aside from this minor problem The Awakening was a nice little viewing surprise if you don’t mind a little thought mixed with your ghost stories. But don’t go into this thinking it’s going to be a scare a minute because that is not what this movie was designed to be or should it be.