The film The Awakening (2011) is a neo-noir horror mystery set in England during World War I. “The Awakening” manages to be both an effective thriller and a nuanced piece of character drama. It’s also one of those rare films where you can tell it was made by people who really loved making movies—the kind of people who want their work to live up to its potential rather than just meet minimum expectations. So when I saw this movie years ago, I knew it would be good. But then—like most movies from 2011—it got savaged by critics for being derivative and having an ending that was both too ambiguous and anticlimactic at the same time!
The Awakening Ending Explained in Details
* * * Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen the movie yet, turn back now! * * *
The movie starts in 1921 in London. A woman Florence joins in a spiritual ceremony where some unusual phenomenon starts happening. But Florence discovers the ritual is nothing but a magic show and she exposed it red-handed. Within a few moments police enters the scene and arrest all the frauds. Here in the movie the character Florence Cathcart is explained. She is a hunter and author of fake spiritualists. She also collaborates with the police. She starts hunting ghosts to see if she can bring her fiancé back after learning that he died in the First World War.
A man named Robert comes to visit Florence. He is a teacher at a Cumbrian boys’ boarding school. Robert explains that there have been reports of a child’s ghost appearing at the school. The child had died from a gunshot when the building was used as a residential house. He speculates that one of these sightings may have contributed to a student’s recent passing.
Florence first rejects Robert’s offer to assist with the investigation. But when Robert expresses worry for the boarding school students, whom he compares to orphans, Florence changes her mind. Because she is an orphan herself.
Florence meets with the school’s housekeeper, Maud Hill. She tells Florence that she has read her books and she also doesn’t believe in ghosts. This is the reason she sent Robert to visit Florence.
In a short time, Florence starts the investigation. She visits the classroom and places where ghost sightings are usually high. She also talks with borders and teachers of the school to gather more information about the paranormal mysteries.
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Florence investigates on her first night at the school and discovers that two students pushed a third into masquerading as a ghost. Therefore, she concludes that the sightings are the product of a prank. Regarding the current tragedy, one of the teachers reveals that he had scared the little kid. He brought on a deadly asthma attack while forcing the deceased student to stand outside the school to toughen him up after he claimed to have seen the ghost.
The institution then stops for half-term only with Florence, Robert, Maud, and a student Tom. Because of parents live in India he stays in the boarding.
Florence’s work is done here. She concludes that there are no ghosts either. Now she is ready to leave the place. She goes down to the lake for smoking. Florence uses her dead husband’s cigarette case. Unfortunately, the case drops down by the water. Suddenly a shadowy hand reaches out to her from the water as she grabs for it. She regains composure but suddenly let’s go and falls into the lake.
Robert saves her, and despite Florence’s assurances that it was an accident. After the incident, Robert and Maud start to worry about Florence’s mental state. Florence decides to stay at the school a few days more.
She chases what she thinks is the ghost before seeing an apparition of a man brandishing a shotgun who she thinks is about to shoot her. She also hears a youngster calling “Mowa Zee,” which she explains Tom was the name some Africans gave her after they saved her from the lion that had taken care of her when she was a child and left her orphaned.
As stay close, Florence and Robert develop their feelings and come closer. However, Edward grows resentful of the new loved couple. He has an animosity against Robert for being a war hero. His jealousy turns him so violent that he tries to rape Florence. But She kills Judd out of self-defense with the help of a ghostly apparition. She tells Robert when she gets back to the school, and he goes to bury Judd to hide what happened. Florence begs Robert to keep what happened from Tom. But Robert replies that no one is in school.
Florence finds that Robert can see the ghosts of his wartime buddies. But shockingly he is now in the present. And she concludes that ghosts only appear to the lonely. She also finds out that Tom’s mother is Maud. She was her nanny when Florence was a young child.
Maud clarifies that she initially set up Florence’s visit to the school because Tom missed her. Then, Maud poisons herself and Florence intending to have their ghosts join Tom. He brings Florence some medicine after Florence warns him that her soul won’t rest if she passes away now.
Florence can be seen wandering the school in the scene that follows. On her walk out, she passes several adults. But none pays her any attention.
Robert and Florence smoke together after Florence catches up with them. Florence clarifies that losing the ability to perceive ghosts is different from forgetting them.
She then tells Robert that she will see him on Saturday week and requests that he direct their chauffeur to stop at the end of the road. Because she always enjoys the stroll. Robert observes her leave as the couple shares a kiss.
Official Synopsis of The Awakening (2011)
The Awakening is a supernatural thriller starring Rebecca Hall (The Town, Iron Man 3) and Dominic West (HBO’s The Wire).\r\n\r\nSet in London in 1921, Florence Cathcart (Hall), author of the popular book “Seeing Through Ghosts,” has devoted her career to exposing claims of the supernatural as nothing but hoaxes. Haunted by the recent death of her fiancé, she is approached by Robert Mallory (West) to investigate the recent death of a student at the all-boys boarding school where he teaches. When students at the school report sightings of the young boy’s ghost, she decides to take on the case. Initially, the mystery surrounding the ghost appears nothing more than a schoolboy prank, but as Florence continues to investigate events at the school, she begins to believe that her reliance on science may not be enough to explain the strange phenomenon going on around her.
Original Title: The Awakening
Genre: Horror/ Mystery
Runtime: 01hr 42min
Original Language: English
Directed by Nick Murphy
Written by Stephen Volk, Nick Murphy
Tagline: All the children are gone… except one.
Release date: November 11, 2011 (UK)
Origin Country: United Kingdom
Filming locations: Lyme Park, Disley, Cheshire, England, UK
Cast of Characters
|Actor/Actress Name||Characters Name|
|Rebecca Hall||Florence Cathcart|
|Dominic West||Robert Mallory|
|Imelda Staunton||Maud Hill|
|Isaac Hempstead Wright||Tom Hill|
I’ve often heard people criticize The Awakening as a derivative and formulaic horror movie, but I don’t think that’s fair. I thought it was an original work of art that just happened to borrow from other genres in order to tell a story about grief, loss, and the nature of trauma. If anything, the film is more concerned with what happens next than it is about how scary things are (which is why its ending feels so right). It’s not perfect, but it’s still worth watching if only for Hall and West’s performances—especially Dominic West’s final scene.