February (2015)

Director: Oz Perkins
Writer: Oz Perkins
Stars: Kiernan Shipka, Emma Roberts, Lucy Boynton

A strong directorial debut from Perkins after a few acting appearances and screenplays. This is also only one of two features that Perkins has both written and directed. He is certainly one to watch in the future with an interesting if slightly disjointed style.

February (aka The Blackcoat’s Daughter) spins us a tale of Kat (Shipka from Mad Men) who is forced to spend a winter break at boarding school after her parents fail to pick her up and are unable to be contacted. In the short-term she is also with Rose (Boynton, American Horror Story) who’s parents are also late but are on their way. The headmaster has entrusted their care with the two live-in nurses.

The two girls could not be more opposite though, with Kat being shy, unassuming and slightly weird in her own way, while Rose is determined to make the most of the isolation and be with her boyfriend. Interspersed with all this we also follow the story of Joan (Emma Roberts) who appears to be trying to make her way towards the town the school is situated. She is offered a lift by Bill and his wife as they are heading in the same direction.

Now Oz Perkins has definitely created a slow-burner here with this title. You do need patience as the film is very story-driven for the most part. There are long silences and the general colour of the film is watered down against the harsh back drop of a Canadian winter. The film is also very disjointed at times and certainly requires repeat viewing to get the most from it I feel.

There is a huge twist which you may or may not see coming much earlier than the reveal, but the clues are there for those observant enough and paying attention. The problem though is that the clues appear far before they actually mean anything, which means you can easily forget them and then wonder what the hell is going on. This was most likely the directors intention. Many people did not like a certain aspect of the casting (will not spoil it for those who haven’t seen this), but once you put all the pieces together I can see why he did this.

Overall this a pretty good film, a little different (if nothing special) and is reasonably well acted throughout. Shilpa in particular does an impressive job at portraying her character. The sets and locations are all impressive and the photography is also very well done, as is the audio. Very bleak, dreary and washed out in colour, the film has a style of its own and builds the uneasy dread well. The ending is quite harrowing and it’s refreshing to see a film close like this, as most directors tend to take the easy and happy way out now. Recommended.

The Sage’s Rating:

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