Cracks Review

1934. At an elite girls' boarding school, Miss Gribben (Eva Green), known informally as Miss G, is a charismatic teacher idolised by many of her charges, not least Di (Juno Temple). But then a new girl arrives from Spain, Fiamma (Maria Valverde). She is beautiful, exotic, from a wealthy background and well-travelled, and soon the girls soon start to look up to her, which puts the noses of both Di and Miss G out of joint.

Daughter of Ridley and niece of Tony, Jordan Scott is, along with brother Jake, part of the second generation of the family Scott to become film directors. A child entering a profession where a parent has excelled is in an unenviable position, inviting both unflattering comparisons and accusations of nepotism (Ridley and Tony are both executive producers of Cracks). To her credit, Jordan Scott has made a film neither her father nor her uncle would be likely to make: a historical character drama with overtly female subject matter. Thelma & Louise notwithstanding, neither senior Scott is known for much exploration of his feminine side. (The cast is almost all female too, with just two minor credited roles played by men.) Cracks, based on a novel by Sheila Kohler, is a confidently made, good-looking piece that falls short of being exceptional. If anything it's a little too polite and restrained for its own good. A storyline that could reveal hothouse passions comes out as a little underheated.

Eva Green's Miss G is in a long line of unconventional but inspiring cinematic teachers. She's a darker figure than, say, Robin Williams in Dead Poets's Society, who was unequivocally on the side of freethinking in an age of conformity. Early on, Miss G is revealed to be a fantasist (her foreign adventures are lifted from a book, as Fiamma is quick to discover), and later in the film she is shown to be

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a predatory lesbian and an accessory to manslaughter
.Di, on the other hand, is the character on whose arc the film turns, but she becomes a bully when her position as queen bee, and Miss G's favourite, is threatened. Ambiguity and shades of grey are to be welcomed, but these are more irresolute than that. You only have to look at other films that Cracks resembles to see how it falls short: Miss G is nowhere near as compelling as Maggie Smith's Miss Brodie. Also, for hothouse atmosphere, see the first half hour of Picnic at Hanging Rock. On this evidence, Scott does not have Peter Weir's eye and John Mathieson's camerawork, while certainly attractive, isn't in Russell Boyd's class.

As a calling card for its director and its young cast (including at least one other director's daughter – Juno Temple, fathered by Julien) Cracks works fine, and spending an hour and a half with it is certainly no waste of time. Yet you may well end up wanting more than the film offers.


Optimum's DVD release of Cracks comprises a single dual-layered disc encoded for Region 2 only. This review is of the DVD edition, though there is a Blu-ray release as well.

The opening screen invites you to choose between a UK menu and a French one. The UK version begins with a trailer for The Army of Crime, a commercial for Galaxy chocolate, and trailers for Leap Year and Coco Before Chanel. These can be fastforwarded but they cannot be skipped unless you select “France” on the opening menu, in which case you only get a French-language copyright warning before the Cracks menu in French.

The DVD transfer is in the original ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. It's a good-looking picture, evidently sourced from a HD master, as sharp and colourful as it needs to be, and with fine shadow detail. I didn't see this film in the cinema, but I'm confident that it looks as it should on this DVD. I did spot some edge enhancement, notably around the policemen in the long shot that opens Chapter 11.

The soundtrack comes in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Surround options, both in the original English and a French dub for each. This isn't the most adventurous sound mix, leaving the surrounds mainly for Javier Navarrete's music score, but dialogue is always clear. I would have to favour the English 5.1 track as it has the original dialogue and because the film's track was digitally originated, but all four are quite acceptable depending on your equipment and needs. Subtitles are available in both English (hard-of-hearing) and French. The former are to be commended, as most Optimum releases I've seen of English-language films have no English subtitles available at all.

The extras are nothing special, mostly comprising three interviews. Each one is in standard EPK format: a text question appearing on screen, followed by video of the interviewee's responses, with none of the questions going much below surface level. We hear from Jordan Scott (5:15), Juno Temple and Maria Valverde together (6:44) and Eva Green (2:35). Also on the disc is the theatrical trailer (2:02). The soundtracks for all of these items is English only. Only French subtitles are available for these items, and they're fixed if you came in via the French menu.

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