Jordan Scott's debut feature, "Cracks," brings us into the cloistered world of an all-girls English boarding school in the 1930s. The only way to get to the island campus is by ferry from the mainland; getting out seems even harder.
"Cracks" focuses intently on the school's diving team, led by their fierce captain Di (Juno Temple), who understands that controlling the team also means being atop the social strata. They are coached by free-spirited Miss G (Eva Green), who preaches that the most important thing in life is desire - at a school where students recite Shelley's "Ozymandias" to caution them against ambition - and regales her charges with suspicious stories of world travels.
But Di and Miss G's carefully constructed and isolated world begins to crack with the arrival of Fiamma (Maria Valverde), a Spanish aristocrat who embodies the exotic. Di turns on her, but Miss G is taken by her, which becomes the catalyst of the teacher's demise.
Miss G holds a certain power over the girls, but when she leaves the school for a simple shopping trip, she completely falls apart. Green (who brings class to Starz's pulpy "Camelot" as the nefarious Morgan) commands the full spectrum of her character. She's believable as both the inspiring instructor and the shaken chain-smoker.
Miss G's breakdown gives the eerie "Cracks" a sense of melodrama it might not need. Jordan Scott - adapting Sheila Kohler's novel with Ben Court and Caroline Ip - is the daughter of director Ridley Scott ("Alien," "Blade Runner"). The cinematography (by John Mathieson, Ridley's man behind the camera) is gorgeous, with long hallways becoming endless tunnels and fire becoming light that dances on the skin of her central characters.
Scott keeps the focus of the film on the diving team students, with other teachers and students as mere afterthoughts. This single-mindedness makes the girls' world more insular and all the more earth-shattering when it falls apart. Scott has a sure hand until the film's problematic third act. Instead of giving the audience room to think, Scott settles for easy, pulpy answers.
But Temple shines as Di. Her round face and large eyes convey almost as much as her dialogue.