Abandoned by their respective families at a religious boarding school in 1930s Britain, a group of young girls are devoted to their diving team teacher, the eccentric Miss G (Eva Green). Her biggest fan Di (Juno Temple) leads the team as the head mean girl, bullying others whilst Miss G favours her above the rest. But when the striking new Fiamma (María Valverde) arrives from Spain and catches Miss G’s obsessive gaze, Di and the others fight to get her out in order to regain their teacher’s attention – Fiamma, on the other hand, begins to unravel Miss G’s dominance over the other girls whilst struggling against the teacher’s invasive fixation of her. A tale of female relationships and pathological attachments, Cracks shows the dark side of yearning for affection and truth in a place where both were already lost; unfortunately, it seems they weren’t the only things missing from this film.
Cracks‘s take on female relationships in the context of a religious environment, in which the girls have been essentially abandoned by their families, is interesting in that it provides a view into the roads taken when family love is not provided, and when that love must be found elsewhere. Eva Green sits on her metaphorical throne created by the lost children as she provides them with a version of that care– the only type of affection available is, unfortunately, one based on false truths. And as the audience watches Miss G’s crumbling throne at the hand of Fiamma, it is easily understood that the teacher is just a child herself. It is not a film about the exploration of sexuality or those feelings associated with coming-of-age stories, but instead of strong emotion in a place where that is the connection most needed. Temple in the role of Di is believable as a young girl switching between kindness and friendship to hating and blaming, just towards one person; reminiscent of classroom drama in a school kids reality. But Green turns it from schoolgirl theatrics to a malicious and eerie performance with her cold stares and manic demeanour whenever she ventures into the outside world, suddenly switching to the grandiose storyteller that captivates the attention of the girls. Valverde’s Fiamma is truly the odd one out, and we’ve all been in that position. The motivation behind her attitudes is hinted at, more so than Miss G’s, suggested as having a troubled childhood but so vaguely that it becomes difficult to understand her behaviour. This is ideal for some viewers, to keep the mystery of the character alive, but in Cracks it just ends up manifesting into something lackluster as no context is provided for Miss G’s obsessive behaviour.
These characters are the most interesting part of the film, contrasting well against the image of the gray English school with a rigid routine. The cinematography is overall simple, but with a few interesting shots often framing the diving scenes to show Miss G’s colourful influence on the girls, plus Fiamma’s exquisite abilities as a diver; specifically, the slow-motion twisting of her in mid-air as she jumps into the water that fills the entire frame. These moments help contrast the school against Miss G; the dull against the bright; the freedom against the routine, as the girls – and Miss G – aim to seek, albeit in different ways depending on their desire. All desire, however, is based around a type of affection they each seek, each within a group of females and each needing a platform to stand on. It’s great to see a female director take on this task of exploring these relationships, and although I haven’t read the book the film was based on, the film version of Cracks manages to adequately convey the characters with enough interest to keep the whole thing from flopping entirely.
The characters, however, did not gain my sympathy, and their flaws seemed to out-weigh any of their redeeming features or qualities. Each character was just a little bit too much of a self-serving person, unredeemable by any of their conclusions. I’m sure this was down to the script itself and not the actors, but a story exploring relationships needs to produce some type of redemption or action that makes the character human, instead of leaving the film with a feeling of lacklust ending whereby the characters just sort of ‘are’ rather than well-rounded and concluded. Cracks clearly tried hard in all aspects of storytelling to produce an overall well-rounded film, but it instead just manages to miss the mark to be something fantastic. It was enjoyable and interesting, but just not as great as it felt like it could have been.