‘The Turning’ displays excellent acting, leaves plot points unresolved

[left to right] Miles Fairchild (Finn Wolfhard), his sister, Flora (Brooklynn Prince), and their governess, Kate Mandell (Mackenzie Davis), discover sinister secrets at the Fairchild Estate. "The Turning" is rated PG-13.

The widely advertised thriller, “The Turning,” premiered Jan. 24, and though it lived up to its spine-chilling trailers, it left many mysteries unsolved. 

The movie follows the story of a woman’s first attempt at being a live-in governess to a small, orphaned girl who resides in her family’s aged mansion. Kate (Mackenzie Davis) learns quickly that she has gotten herself into more than just a simple job as a nanny when she observes the girl’s strange behavior, as well as that of the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten). What made the story differ from most in the horror genre was the uncertainty of the source of conflict. From the beginning, the living situation at the mansion is obviously eerie and strange. However, the root reason for this is largely unknown for a significant portion of the film. 

A complete explanation for the happenings is never explicitly provided.

First, something seems off with the little girl, Flora, who is portrayed beautifully by

nine-year-old actress Brooklynn Prince. Her mannerisms and vocal inflections seem so familiar. To the viewer, she is as ordinary as any little girl you might meet. She captured the necessary elements of horror without replicating the unnatural, unrealistic behavior children in such roles often display. Her performance was indeed impressive. The viewer’s first impression of Flora’s strange behavior and seeming mind-reading capabilities is that Flora will be an antagonist in this story.

Then, we meet Miles (Finn Wolfhard) — Flora’s older brother who arrives at the mansion after being expelled from boarding school. Miles behaves in a suspicious and often violent fashion and ominously speaks, like Flora, of things he should not be aware of. Many recall Wolfhard from his role as Mike Wheeler in Netflix’s well-known series, Stranger Things. “The Turning,” however, was a true showcase of his acting skill. His lines were all well-delivered, but it was his nonverbal communication that was the most striking in this role. His suspicious facial expressions and gestures more than made up for his lack of lines in the film. His every line and movement seemed so strategically plotted that it furthered the thought that he may be the film’s main antagonist.

The audience, along with a paranoid Kate, is trying to discover the mysterious past of the mansion and the children who live inside it. The most frightening scenes of the movie were so well constructed that just as Kate was fearful she had seen someone or something, the audience could sense that paranoia too. It had me, at times, wondering whether I was hallucinating or if the specter had truly appeared on the screen. 

The attention to detail achieved in this film through skilled acting and perfectly executed suspense prepared the viewer for an interesting ending. However, the ending left multitudes of questions unanswered and felt

half-hearted and almost lazy. It was reminiscent of a story in a student’s first creative writing course when he cannot be bothered to write a thoughtful conclusion and therefore finishes with the phrase, “and then she woke up.” This is not to say this was how “The Turning” ended —  it was not. It just exuded that familiar carelessness and hastiness of a writer who is simply ready to be finished. 

I would recommend “The Turning” to anyone who enjoys mysteries, ghost stories, and lots of jump scares. The film was, altogether, excellent in quality, but the storyline left viewers desperate for answers we may never receive. 

“The Turning” is rated PG-13 and is now showing in theaters.

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