Desire is a sensation that to all, is never an end within itself. As a motivator, it can drive a person to carry out the most improbable and irrational actions. However the line between improbable and comical becomes blurred when your casts is essentially Hogwarts for the sheltered and bitchy.
In a 1930s boarding school, Miss G (Eva Green) is the teacher and head of house for a small group of girls headed by Di (Juno Temple). Spending the majority of their time reading and diving, they idolize their adult figurehead and spurn any interlopers, a fact that does not bode well for Fiamma (Maria Valverde), a spanish aristocrat who has been sent there under mysterious circumstances. Miss G becomes so enamoured with the new addition that desire and passion boils to the surface in an altogether unhealthy and malicious fashion.
Miss G is both engenue and teacher, Exploring the many meanings of desire with girls in the prime of their life. Yet they know little of the world, other than what exists in books and the microcosm they call reality.
Fiamma and Ms G are the most rich and deeply explored characters, played with grace and real ability by their respective actresses. Both possess a poise and elegance that is counteracted by their own personal circumstances, each with something to lose overall and from their relationship with one another. An obsessive game developing that can lead to no good. They craft the simplistic source material of the script into something haunting, beautiful and in Miss G’s case, altogether malevolent.
Sadly the remaining supporting characters are mere puppets, props to further the story. Their inclusion often makes the movie as a whole feel like a romanticized idea of boarding school life, full to the brim with diving practice, gymnastics and all the bitchiness that comes with that same imagery in an all-female environment.
Too much time is spent on these characters who add nothing and act without any reason and a seriousness they do not seem capable of understanding. Chief amongst the faults is Di, leader of these caricatures. Whereas the remaining two primary characters superimpose nuance and brevity, their is no balance in her performance. She is a girl unhinged, unable to give the writing meaning in all but the most literal and ludicrous sense and thus, her character is nothing more than a deus ex machina, mechanical in every sense of the word. Di is a constant analogy of the dancer who counts steps and as a result, the tension is always unnecessarily high, even where it is completely so.
Granted the blame cannot be placed solely on her shoulders, a proficient director would have been capable of realizing that with such high tension, the plot tends alternate between stagnation and suffocation, even in a movie only 104 minutes long. This is Jordan Scott’s first feature-length film but the faults already noted in some of the actresses’ performances and the large amount of time stylizing and portraying the idealistic vision of boarding school life, means it often amounts to set pieces of diving, gymnastics and flower arranging, stitched together with a vindictive bitchiness that feels forced. Yes these girls can easily be competitive for Miss G’s affections, but the degree to which they are and with so little depth in their portrayal means that when the innevitable finally occurs, it is nothing short of comical, child-like and indefensible.
Inevitably the piece descends into something altogether silly, taking any bit of nuance on the part of the two leads with it. We do learn how dangerous desire can be, but through gross overstatement rather than substance. Beautiful but fickle and insolent.