With tortuous love triangles and suppressed desires in a 30s all-girl, English boarding school; Cracks combines the non-insane-sci-fi parts of Never Let Me Go mixed with a large dollop of the hive mind antics of Lord of the Flies, with upper lips getting so stiff they explode. It should pretty much run with the subtitle: Cracks: a.k.a. Boarding Schools are a Terrible Idea because it Makes People Cray.
Cracks is actually a genuinely interesting piece of filmmaking and well worth a watch. While arguably a little slow-moving in places, requiring some patience from its viewers, it’s a sacrifice duly paid for the subtle realism it attempts to delve into. It focuses not on particular actions or events, but on really living and breathing its characters and their thoughts to quite stunning effect, even down to the cinematography. Let’s take an example; when we see nervous Spanish princess Fiamma arrive to the boarding school for the first time, everything suddenly gives off the vibe of a prison movie. There’s corridor shots very reminiscent of Dead Man Walking; and when Fiamma is shown the dormitory, everyone turns round as if she’s the new arrival at the prison yard being stared down by the gangs. Except instead of gangs of criminals, you just get teenage girls. I’m not sure who’s more terrifying really. Another scene manages to perfectly evoke Miss G’s anxiety by drawing focus to how, when you’re really whacked out on stress, even the tiniest thing, like coins dropping on the floor, suddenly becomes the apocalypse.
Because it’s so heavily based in psychology, it’s a movie which really acknowledges exactly how complicated, angry, confused, and plain messed up desire can so often be. It’s something that’s especially rare from period dramas, where the focus always seemed to be on the ideas of “great love” as something heroic. It’s Keira Knightley hustling through a heather field or nothing. Here, the predatorial diving teacher Miss G is painted with real sensitivity; sure she’s deeply disturbed but, come on guys, her life hasn’t exactly been a kittens and foam party (I’m taking a kittens and foam party as the ideal of living here, of course). The film really makes the effort to show the psychological workings behind her actions, leaving you with a real nature vs. nurture discussion.
This kind of depth of course wouldn’t be possible without some pretty damn great performances from its all-female cast. Woo, girl power! Eva Green is fantastic in expressing the unwinding mental state of Miss G, while still able to capture the charismatic elusiveness that makes her so fascinating to the girls. She also just makes the craziest faces. Exhibit A:
Oh, and don’t worry, this movie includes the compulsory Eva Green Nudie Scene. While so many actresses might have “no nudity” written into their contract, I’m pretty sure Eva’s contract opens with a capitalised “THE WORLD HAS GOTTA SEE MY TITTIES”. Extra gold star also goes to Juno Temple for perfecting the stuck-up little bitch routine here, including prim Famous Five accent. I know she was only a fictitious character on a screen, but I was already nervously clutching my lunch money within seconds of her arrival.
It’s really the details, the subtle and intelligent performances, screenplay, and cinematography, that bring this film out of what could have been the dreary, well-worn f-ed up boarding school premise.
Take a Drink: every time Fiamma starts wheezing.
Take a Drink: every time there’s a slow-mo diving shot.
Take a Drink: every time it looks like Eva Green’s eyes are going to pop out of her head.