Director: Jordan Scott
Writers: Ben Court, Caroline Ip and Jordan Scott (screenplay), Sheila Kohler (novel)
Cinematographer: John Mathieson
Starring: Eva Green, Juno Temple, María Valverde, Imogen Poots
Studio/Runtime: IFC Films/104 min.
Boarding school films have become their own genre, with standard plotlines and stock characters. Cracks, the debut film from Ridley Scott’s daughter Jordan, is in almost every respect typical of these films, taking place during an unspecified period of time at a seemingly idyllic all-girls school where one clique, the swimming team, is ruled over by the bullying Di (Juno Temple). She in turn is the favorite of their advisor, the beautiful Ms. G (Eva Green). But with the arrival of the new student Fiamma (María Valverde) from Spain, their group is fractured, as Ms. G soon develops an unhealthy interest in her new pupil while Fiamma illustrates that their favorite teacher may be less infallible than she pretends.
With only a few male cameos in the entire film, Cracks is largely an exploration of sororal relationships. Unfortunately its depictions are extremely problematic, implying not only that female homosexuality is an inevitable part of those relationships, but also that it’s an aggressive, uncontrollable force that can only be held back for so long. Cracks isn’t particularly nuanced about this either, such that the film’s gradual evolution into a sort of lesbian Lord of the Flies comes as no surprise. By that point it’s clear that violence is the only direction Scott and her screenwriters believe these relationships can go in, and while the movie is by no means gay bashing, its sexual politics are far from enlightened.
A more unique aspect of the film—a lot of boarding school features are concerned with homosexuality—is the oddly fascistic strain of Ms. G’s diving team, which is less about diving than about exultation of the female body. Never in competition with anyone else (Cracks’ dream-like lack of time or place makes it unclear if anywhere else actually exists in its world), the girls dive in order to prove that their bodies, and thus the girls themselves, are good enough for diving. These scenes are filmed in luxurious slow-motion while Ms. G shouts nonsensical slogans at the group as encouragement, and while it’s in some respects an interesting link between the film’s primary interest in homosexuality, Scott doesn’t really know what to do with it.
Cracks is beautifully shot, with Scott borrowing her father’s usual cinematographer for the film, and universally well-acted, but that’s not nearly enough for the film to rise above its material. Scott’s directing is extremely assured for a debut, but unsurprisingly it never questions the screenplay and what it’s saying, making it forceful rather than subtle in a picture that could have used a much lighter touch. In the end, Cracks only strays from the boarding school genre’s playbook when it’s entering questionable territory, making for a picture that’s easily forgettable except in its disappointments.