The Turning (2020) Jan 25, 2020 0:21:21 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 25, 2020 0:21:21 GMT -5
The Turning (2020)
Directed by: Floria Sigismondi
Directed by: Floria Sigismondi
Barbara Marten and Mackenzie Davis in The Turning.
It's really the pits when a movie does a solid job keeping you invested throughout much of its runtime only to hit you with an ambiguous climax that leads to an abrupt and unsatisfying ending. That's what happened to me with The Turning. I was loving Brooklynn Prince's precocious sass and Finn Wolfhard's incorrigible deadpan, along with the haunting cinematography and chilling story at hand. But that wrap-up left much to be desired, and nearly soiled all that came before it.
The Turning is based off of Henry James' famous novella The Turn of the Screw from 1898. Set in 1994 (clarified by a radio early in the film, contextualizing the period by reporting the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain), Kate (Mackenzie Davis) is working as a school teacher when she opts to take a break and serve as the nanny to an orphaned young girl and her older brother. Kate has one close friend, from what it seems, and a mentally-ill mother (Joely Richardson, who, fun fact, was the granddaughter of Michael Redgrave, who starred in The Innocents, the adaptation of the story from 1961).
Upon arriving at the lavish estate, she meets Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten in an unnerving yet fiercely watchable performance), the reticent caretaker, along with the children, Flora (Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project) and Miles (Finn Wolfhard, Stranger Things). Kate forms something of a connection with Flora, while Miles, from the start, is a totally different case. A disaffected young man with a concerning lack of empathy, he is prickly towards Kate from their first meeting. Mrs. Grose informs her that the previous caretakers — two folks known as Miss Jessel (Denna Thomsen) and Quint (Niall Greig Fulton) — were involved in some kind of accident, and the more time Kate spends in the house, the more convinced she is that there is some kind of haunting that could indeed be Jessel and Quint.
The bulk of the film follows Kate trying to befriend the children despite their caustic tendencies. One gentle scene shows Kate teaching Flora how to form and "put on" her "brave-face" when she encounters something that scares her. A sizable part of the reason Kate took this nanny gig was so she could try and aid two orphans in growing up without parental figures, something she's had to learn how to navigate for much of her life with the absence of her father and her mother being mentally ill. Such little moments provide a bit of humanism between many of the largely foreseeable jump-scares.
These moments, too, help when you have a cast this strong. Mackenzie Davis, who I truly enjoyed in Tully, brings a gravitas to Kate to the extent that she doesn't just feel like a pretty face, but someone with a true difficulty in expressing her conflicting emotions. Brooklynn Prince proves she's one of the many great young actresses working today, with a natural ability to be both playful and stern. Then there's Finn Wolfhard, who will be a draw for those still consumed by Stranger Things. They'll get what they pay for as Wolfhard impressively carries his weight once again, sinking into the role of a young boy who spends much of his screentime with his eyes wide and mouth agape while harboring mysterious intentions. It's incredible what happens when you get talented actors to star in an otherwise cheapie horror flick: you get memorable performances that elevate a once shell-shocking tale that's impact is inevitably diminished due to the threads of the material being derivative in modern context.
Gorgeous aerial wideshots of the labyrinth backyard of the estate (even though the location never feels effectively utilized) along with meticulous costume and set designs work to make The Turning distinguishable. Even subtleties such as Kate's red coat appearing as a stark contrasting ray of color livening up the bleak grayness of the estate upon her arrival lie within, employed with attention-to-detail by director Floria Sigismondi (The Runaways) and cinematographer David Ungaro.
But the problem is the ending. The Turning tries to implement a tricky premonition device that it doesn't know how to handle. The fun is partly in seeing the outcome envisioned and subsequently witnessing if they play out the way they were foreshadowed. Screenwriters Chad and Carey W. Hayes (The Conjuring) apparently forgot the last part, or post-production changes implored them to go the route of really leaving the premise open for a sequel.
Either way, I can honestly say that The Turning has the worst ending to a mainstream American film I've seen since The Devil Inside in 2012. The only other shocking detail germane to that is that I ultimately didn't dislike it. Not even half as much as the aforementioned picture.
There's enough to chew on that makes the experience a fruitful one, but I have a feeling much of the discourse on this film — which is already overwhelmingly negative, looking at the vast majority of popular movie websites — will be negative due to the final 15 minutes being so profoundly unclear. That's a shame for an otherwise solid film and its impending legacy.
NOTE: I've started "Stove's Movie Minute" for WALLS 102, the radio station at which I'm currently employed. It'll be a pithy, weekly podcast reviewing the latest movie in theaters. Check out my review of The Turning here: www.walls102.com/stoves-movie-minute-the-turning-2020/
Starring: Mackenzie Davis, Brooklynn Prince, Finn Wolfhard, Barbara Marten, Denna Thomsen, Niall Greig Fulton, and Joely Richardson. Directed by: Floria Sigismondi.