Henry James 1898 novella ‘The Turn of Screw’ has found itself the subject of several cinematic adaptations and interpretations over the years. The most notable of these being Jack Clayton’s exquisite and unparalleled The Innocents in 1961. However, with The Turning director Floria Sigismondi attempts to take the gothic horror of Henry James into 1990’s America. While equally playing with the novellas themes of domestic violence, mental health and childhood innocence. However, despite there being some redeeming qualities, the end result is nothing short of a confused mess. As the narrative lurches between ghost story, corrupted innocence and mental decline. With none of these aspects finding their true footing as the the film concludes with a ham fisted attempt at divergence from the source material.
Kate Mandell (Mackenzie Davis) is a young women looking for a new and exciting job role. And when a one appears as a live-in carer and teacher for the Fairchild’s she jumps right in. Leaving her mentally-ill artist mother (Joely Richardson) to relocate to the wealthy family’s sprawling estate. An estate that feels utterly disconnected to the choice of a 1990’s American location.
On arrival Kate finds herself coldly welcomed into the family house by Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten). An elderly women who appears to harbour her own secrets under a cloak of tradition and routine. However, on meeting Flora (Brooklynn Prince). Kate finds her initial doubts and concerns relegated to the front gate. As young Flora welcomes her into the house with abundant imagination and enthusiasm. However, when Flora’s older brother Miles (Finn Wolfhard) suddenly returns home from boarding school, the atmosphere begins to unravel. His volatile behaviour having led to his exclusion from school. Behaviour that despite Kate’s care and attention continues to become increasingly challenging and predatory. Meanwhile the dangerous ghosts and secrets of the families past slowly converge on the house and it occupants.
Director: Floria Sigismondi