In her high-waisted trousers, the glamorous young teacher has the swagger of Katharine Hepburn, and the girls at St. Mathilda's boarding school adore her. But there is less to Miss G. (Eva Green) than meets the eye. The fissure between appearance and reality separates "Cracks" from more conventional schoolhouse potboilers.
The year is 1934, on an island off the English coast. Debut director Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley) has a background in photography, and the images of the Gothic church and school grounds are beautifully foreboding. Yet the pink-cheeked girls in their matching uniforms are blooming, and the fully formed Miss G. is their model of confident womanhood. She winks when they break the rules, mentors the diving team and tells them tales of her great adventures.
Miss G.'s lieutenant is Di (Juno Temple), who controls the younger and homelier girls. But the arrival of an aristocratic Spanish girl named Fiamma (Maria Valverde) upsets the balance. Fiamma is an accomplished diver, and Miss G. becomes unhealthily obsessed with her. But the girl is also a world-traveler who knows that the teacher's stories are stolen from classic literature.
The simmering rivalry between Di and Fiamma, inflamed by the kind of glimpsed indiscretion that makes adolescent melodramas tick, explodes in a thriller ending that turns an observant coming-of-age story into something resembling "The Lord of the Flies."
"Cracks" is a bit of a knock-off, but it's a sturdily assembled vessel for a promising director and cast.
Three stars (out of four) • Rating Not rated • Run time 1:04 • Content Sensuality and some violence • Where The Tivoli