The Moth Diaries (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/05/2013

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 82 mins

The Moth Diaries has some striking moments and an intriguing set-up but the half-hearted script ultimately fails to bring the various story elements together in a satisfying way and there are a number of irritating cop-outs.

What's it all about?
Directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol), The Moth Diaries is based on the novel by Rachel Klein and stars Sarah Bolger as troubled 16 year old boarding school student Rebecca, who's still recovering from the shock of her father's recent suicide. Welcomed back by her friends, Rebecca begins to readjust to life at her school, but she becomes increasingly jealous when mysterious new girl Ernessa (Lily Cole, with her hair criminally dyed black) begins stealing away her best friend Lucy (Sarah Gadon).

Her suspicions heightened by the vampire novel she's reading in Mr Davies' (Scott Speedman) literature class, Rebecca begins spying on Ernessa and observes some seriously spooky goings-on, all of which are compounded when Ernessa begins appearing in her dreams. To make matters worse, Rebecca's friends keep disappearing, leaving her with no-one to turn to. But what's really going on?

The Good
To be fair, Lily Cole is well cast, bringing a vaguely creepy, otherworldy quality to Ernessa that works well. There's also strong support from Speedman and a brief but colourful turn from Valerie Tian as school party girl Charley, though Bolger is disappointingly bland as Rebecca and can't quite muster the required level of emotion for what she's supposed to be going through - her crying scenes, for example, are embarrassingly bad.

In addition, there are a couple of visually striking supernatural sequences but they are often ripped off from more famous sources (such as Carrie's blood drenching, a key promotional image for the film) or turn out to be imaginary, which feels like too much of a cop-out.

The Bad
The set-up of the film is initially intriguing, since Rebecca's already fragile mental state naturally leads you to wonder if her mind is playing tricks on her, with the script piling on all manner of swirling teenage angst into the bargain (crushes on teachers, first sexual experiences, drugs, jealousy, eating disorders, lesbianism, you name it). However, the film quickly removes any ambiguity in that regard, instead throwing up a number of conflicting supernatural options, without worrying whether any of them make sense; is Ernessa meant to be a vampire? A ghost? A psycho? A strange moth-related creature? (The occasional moth motif is badly handled and makes no sense at all).

Ultimately, the film fails to resolve its own mystery in a satisfactory manner and the finale feels unearned as a result. This is a shame, as there are a lot of nice ideas floating about that the script refuses to fully exploit.

Worth seeing?
The Moth Diaries is a disappointing supernatural thriller that squanders its considerable potential thanks to an overburdened and ultimately nonsensical script.

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Content updated: 17/12/2017 15:49

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