I loved this film for the clothing alone. I adore the twenties, I adore most everything relating to Interwar culture.
I also loved the opening sequence. I will admit though that it was more obvious than not. I am also impressed that the main character smokes through the film-it’s historically accurate and it’s not cut out of the film because ‘people shouldn’t smoke.’
One of my issues with the film is that it relies on the hardened atheist skeptic trope. At this point, when a character starts spewing ‘there is no God!’ at the beginning of the film you know they’re going to have problems later in the film. Same with the overly accepting headmaster who’s all but waving a white hankie while he talks about the terror of his youth. Nothing good comes out of this conversation.
I will say that the characterization actually balances out the problems I had with the characterization, as awkward a statement as that is. Feminism in Britain took off faster than it did in America, so by that era women would have been allowed some level of social freedom. It still would have been somewhat strange for a woman to have a degree but not unheard of, and women were writing much more openly on both sides of the Atlantic. However it seems that in a lot of films, regardless of genre, when you mention anything Suffrage/first wave related producers feel the need to overemphasize how ‘liberated’ the character is. The Awakening avoids that trap, and Florence actually seems increasingly uncomfortable with the attention her degree brings her.
(Another issue I have with this film, and it’s not an issue I even have with the film! The movie takes one of its creepy-cues from M.R. James-who is an author that seems to not be all that well read by horror reviews who make out like The Awakening’s use of it the first time it’s been been put in print.)
Finally, pay attention to not just what people but how they say it. The culture of this period, so close to World War 1, becomes its own character. The tension of the Lost Generation becomes almost a physical thing in the set as much as the tables and chairs. Everyone is scarred in their own way and I think it makes the film that much more effective. Yes, overall the film is creepy but it’s worth watching just as a snapshot.