With Cracks, director Jordan Scott explores a familiar tale. What happens when a stranger comes to town and disrupts the normal order of things?
A tight-knit clique of girls are enthralled by their mesmerising teacher and dive-team instructor Miss G (Eva Green). She is the only freethinking and passionate person in the staid but idyllic world of their 1930s British boarding school.
Miss G delights them with adventures in Africa and torrid tales of foreign lovers; she is glamorous and liberated and represents everything that is exciting in the outside world. The group spend all their time together spending hours diving at a nearby lake. But the unexpected arrival of Fiamma (Maria Valverde), a Spanish student of apparent noble lineage, disrupts their perfect equilibrium and it is not long before cracks begin to appear.
Unlike the other girls, Fiamma is assuredly non-conformist. She is also beautiful, wealthy and talented. Her natural self-confidence is an immediate challenge to the cliques team leader, Di Radfield (Juno Temple). Even Miss G is fascinated by her.
Fiamma quickly becomes the new favourite. The film explores heady themes of adolescent infatuation, burgeoning sexuality and the complex power relationships within the peer group and between student and teacher. This heightened sense of drama is set against the windswept landscape of a small island off the British mainland.
Cracks is the directorial debut from Jordan Scott (daughter of Oscar-nominated director, Ridley Scott). Jordan demonstrates a confident and assured narrative technique, which is perhaps an inevitable consequence of her long-standing involvement in the project and her contribution to the script. Nevertheless, she has captured some noteworthy performances from the young cast.
Maria Valverde has a luminescent screen presence and delivers a sincere and natural performance as the outsider, Fiamma. Juno Temple is similarly captivating; her portrayal of team-leader Di Radfield showed a wonderfully controlled intensity and great intelligence.
Eva Green is a natural choice as the enchanting yet enigmatic Miss G. Her performance is as dark, compelling and powerful as we have come to expect from her previous films. And although she has clearly spent a lot of time working on the clipped 1930s British accent, there are some all-too-frequent lapses and it is never completely convincing that she is British born and bred.
This somewhat spoils the illusion of the period film; it sometimes feels like the 1930s elements are a little overplayed to emphasise the significance of the historical setting. Or perhaps this is simply because Eva Green seems quite so unlikely as a long-serving teacher at an isolated British school for orphans.
Melodrama is clearly a pre-requisite of the period setting but there is also a good dose of nudity as well, with lots of underwater shots of nubile bodies swimming and diving. Naturally it does evoke the girls burgeoning sexual awakening but its frequency will be a draw to the more perverted viewer.
Unfortunately, the main problem is the script. The audience is tantalised with mysteries and enigmas that are never satisfactorily explored and allow the audience able to draw some conclusions but leave us ultimately slightly confused. There are plot holes galore and vital little details are skated over too quickly to properly absorb. The film is an adaptation of the Sheila Kohler novel so perhaps some of these puzzling backstories are explored in great depth than was deemed necessary in the film.
Otherwise, the film is beautifully shot on location in Ireland; there is stunning cinematography and beautiful and historically accurate production and costume design. Cracks may not have the desperate raw urgency of Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jacksons debut) or the heady atmosphere of Sophia Copollas Virgin Suicides, but there are some memorable visuals and a lovely sense of pace and drama. With Cracks, Jordan Scott ably demonstrates much potential for the future.