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There’s a lot of pressure riding on a first time feature director. Your first movie could be a calling card that you use for the rest of your career, or something you hide in a closet and excuse by claiming inexperience. In Cracks, Jordan Scott has crafted a movie that isn’t a lifelong calling card, but shows signs of real potential.
Set in a boarding school during the 1930s, the school’s diving team is comprised of its most revered group of girls. But while everyone looks up to them, the team is completely infatuated with their coach, Ms. G (Eva Green), a woman they believe to be of worldly experience, when she entertains them with stories of her travels. Of all the girls, Di (Juno Temple) the best diver on the team, is closest to Ms. G, but her position is challenged when a beautiful Spanish aristocrat named Fiamma (Maria Valverde) arrives at the school and steals all of Ms. G’s attention.
While Cracks is certainly heavy with fantastic young talent, it’s Green who puts on an acting clinic. Ms. G is a beautifully complex character with a dark secret and Green hits every note brilliantly. Over the course of the movie she finds herself playing multiple characters, the theatrical storyteller; the strict coach, and the anxious agoraphobe, but her transitions are so well done that it’s never jarring or unbelievable.
But as impressive as Ms. G’s character evolutions may be, the story, and, by proxy, the characters, struggle under the same sword. Much of the plot centers on the diving team’s unwillingness to accept Fiamma as one of their own, but their relationship with her flip-flops so much that it’s hard to keep track of exactly how they feel about her. At one point the team packs up all of her belongings and shoves her out the gates, and only to just a few minutes later welcome her back in with open arms. Di scolds her teammates for wanting to associate with Fiamma, and then they’re all the best of friends, partying together. If the script were to ever explain the motivation behind these sudden changes of heart it would be different, but scenes with contrasting emotions are edited together so closely that the audience is left confused.
Still, as a director Jordan Scott shows promise. Scenes in which the girls practice their dives are wonderfully shot, capturing the beauty of the sport. One sequence – in which the girls go out for a midnight swim – is particularly stunning, mixing beautiful blue light with some terrific underwater photography. Moments away from the water are more subtle, but they only serve to heighten the ones that aren’t.
Though the story has its inconsistencies Scott’s debut as a feature director shows flashes of potential. Bolstered by an exquisite turn from Eva Green and solidified by its younger cast, Cracks is a beautifully photographed, well-performed, ultimately flawed period piece.