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Film / The Awakening

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Robert Mallory: There have been other sightings. The boys believe...
Florence Cathcart: Boys believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. I'm sure some of them even believe in God.

A 2011 British horror film starring Dominic West and Rebecca Hall and set in 1921, in the aftermath of World War I.

Florence Cathcart (Hall) is a driven paranormal debunker called to a boarding school by teacher Robert Mallory (West) to investigate an alleged haunting there. She duly goes about her work, only to find that the house contains an old and personal secret. Not to be confused with the novel by Kate Chopin.


This movie provides examples of:

  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Florence is about to have one in the bath, but is interrupted.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Maud makes for an extremely sympathetic character, even when poisoning herself and Florence to reunite them with Tom in the afterlife.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The movie ends without confirming whether or not Florence is dead; Apparently Tom helped her throw up the poison, but no vomit is seen, and though the headmaster only talks about one death, he makes a crude comment about Florence right as she's in his line of vision. Word Of God is that she's alive, as evidenced by the fact that she takes Mallory's cigarette from him and then mentions that there's a car waiting for her at the end of the drive.
  • Asshole Victim: Edward Judd is accidentally killed by Florence in self-defense.
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  • Attempted Rape: By Edward, on Florence.
  • Batman Cold Open: The movie opens with Florence performing an undercover debunking of a fake medium.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Maud poisons both Florence and herself
  • Boarding School - the school is depicted fairly realistically for 1921 - discipline is strong and includes caning, but the teachers genuinely believe that they're acting in the pupils' interest. The haunting might make it a Boarding School of Horrors though...
  • Coitus Ensues: There's tension between Florence and Robert, but their sex scene comes off as rather abrupt.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: At the end, one of the teachers mentions that he'd "read a study last term. Ladies' minds often can't cope with further education".
  • Dirty Coward: Robert notes that Edward faked a limp in order to get out of the trenches.
  • Disappeared Dad - Being set immediately after World War I, there's a reason why there aren't many middle-aged men picking up their children from school.
  • Fan Disservice: Florence spies on Mallory as he gets out of the bath — and proceeds to pry at a large scab on his thigh, causing blood to flow from the wound as he bites his towel to stop from crying out.
  • Foreshadowing: The paintings in the room with the great staircase. While no general gets seduced and killed, Florence knows what one of the paintings represents because she's seen it before, in the very same place. As for the other painting, it's where she got the "my parents were mauled by lions" part of her false memories.
  • Fridge Logic: In-Universe, Mallory drops a weird one while developing photographs with Florence.
    Mallory: When I was a lad, I'd huddle into my bed, wanting to see what was there, but too frightened [of the dark] to open my eyes. It's never darker than when we close our eyes, and yet we keep them shut. Why is that?
  • Furo Scene: Both Florence and Robert each get one.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Florence lost her boyfriend in the war.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: At the end, Tom spirits himself up to Maud's room to retrieve something to make Florence sick and thus save her life.
  • Jerkass: Edward.
  • Jerk With A Heartof Gold: Both Florence and Robert. Although they are both arrogant and in Florence's case, rather cold, they do care for each other, and the students and staff.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Florence repressed the memories of her actual past.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A good portion of the movie plays with it, with both options being possible. It's not mundane.
  • Nightmare Face: The ghost's.
  • Red Herring: While not exactly a nice person, McNair is not responsible for any death.
    • There are scenes that hint that Robert may be hiding something, even working with whoever or whatever is behind the things going on the house. He isn't. He sees his own ghosts, although they are never shown.
  • The Reveal: Florence and her parents never lived in Africa, they lived in the school back when it was still a private house and her father shot and killed her mother and half brother then himself. Tom is her father's bastard son, and he's been a ghost this whole time.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Some scenes take a new meaning once we learn that Florence used to live here, and Tom is her dead half-brother, with Maud being his mum. For example, when Tom asks Florence about her loss, it's a brother and childhood friend inquiring about the sister/friend he hasn't seen in years.
    • Much earlier, when Florence first arrives, Maud is very happy to see her...again..
  • Speech Impediment: Robert has one.
  • Survivor Guilt: Mallory feels responsible for the deaths of his squad.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran - McNair is one of these; he pushes the pupils so they'll be strong enough to face the horrors of war
    • Robert also served and has had trouble adjusting since his return.
  • Wham Line: Robert: "Florence, there are no children here. It's just us three."