After viewing The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix, a loose adaptation of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw and other short stories, it seemed appropriate to check out yet another Turn of the Screw adaptation – The Turning.
The Turning is an updating of James’ classic ghost story. Set in 1994, the premise is maintained, i.e. a young governess is hired to watch over two children after their parents’ deaths. Strange things ensue …
Same old story?
The cast of characters should be familiar to anyone who has read Turn of the Screw or seen its numerous adaptations. There is the unnamed governess (Kate Mandel, in this latest iteration – played by Mackensie Davis). She is of course the protagonist of the story as the plot is centred on her decisions and actions.
There are the two orphaned children, Flora (Brooklynn Prince) and Miles (Finn Wolfhard) and the housekeeper Mrs Grose (Barbara Marten). The previous governess Miss Jessel had mysteriously disappeared and there is also the deceased Mr Quint, a former employee.
In The Turning, Mandel is given a back story in the shape of her institutionalised mother. This provides a suggestion, nothing more, of mental illness within Mandel’s own psychological makeup.
Nothing new under the sun
Plot-wise, The Turning is faithful to Turn of the Screw up to a point. Miles returns to the family home after expulsion from boarding school but almost instantly takes a dislike to Mandel and terrorises her for the rest of the movie.
Apart from Miles’ bullying behaviour, Mandel encounters various strange events, which may either be supernatural or a product of Mandel’s disturbed imagination. Basically, she discovers that Miss Jessel may have been raped and drowned by Mr Quint but that is never confirmed as a fact. Mr Quint also terrorises Mandel but once again, it’s unclear whether any of what Mandel experienced is real or not.
Making a right mess of things
That’s the whole problem with The Turning. Everything is left up in the air. The narrative is ambiguous and it’s difficult for a viewer to make head or tail of it all. The final act is the worst of all as an entire sequence is revealed to be a vision of Mandel’s, experienced by her after she looked upon artwork sent by her mother.
Then, rather abruptly, Mandel is affronted by the children as she confronts them about the ghostly presence of Mr Quint before inexplicably being trapped in her own mind. Mandel finds herself at her mother’s institution and is terrified by something the audience is not privy to.
In the final analysis …
A senseless denouement which simply falls apart. Having done quick research, it does seem that originally the project had Steven Spielberg’s involvement. The famed director pulled his participation from the project due to dissatisfaction with its development.
Subsequently, a new director was hired and new script was written but apparently with Spielberg losing interest. The result is this unsatisfying mess. Avoid.
Comments at our Facebook page.
… still there’s more …