On her very first day working as a nurse in a rough area of London, Val (Rose Williams, Masterpiece's 'Sanditon') commits the great indiscretion of undermining the humorless Matron's (Diveen Henry) authority by talking to Doctor Franklin (Charlie Carrick), who then requests her presence on a different ward than the one she'd been assigned to. It's 1974, when striking miners necessitated energy conservation in the form of rolling blackouts and Matron informs Val that not only will she need to clean the evacuated children's ward from top to bottom, but will also work the night shift in Intensive Care without "The Power."
Laura's Review: B
Writer/director Corinna Faith (BAFTA nominated for her 2006 short 'Care') utilizes our fear of the dark to shine a light on both class and female oppression in 1970’s England with her double entendre titled film. While the filmmaker leans on a couple of horror conventions and prior films, her work is also laced with subtlety, like the repetitive imagery of fingers being held to lips, the meaning of which only becomes obvious late in her third act. Faith lays out her building blocks so organically in her carefully constructed screenplay, that she is able to surprise us simply by not hitting us over the head with her ultimate intent.
Matron is so strict and unyielding, we are as taken aback as Val by her lack of empathy for a novice. Matron seems marginally interested that Val is from a local orphanage, but she exhibits no regard whatsoever for Val’s stated interest in the effect of poverty on healthcare. This is the very subject which gets the young nurse into trouble, as she compliments Franklin on his writings on the subject when she returns young Saba (Shakira Rahman) to the ward she’s slipped away from. Later, as Val begins to scrub down that ward, we’ll note black motes floating from a heating register. Val is only aware of a supply closet whose door keeps popping open for no discernible reason.
She gets lost making her way towards the Intensive Care floor, stumbling across Comfort (Gbemisola Ikumelo) and Terry (Nuala McGowan) in Maternity where Val notices pictures of a little girl, Gail (Clara Read), up upon a pegboard (pictures of young girls on a wall will appear elsewhere, with far more sinister implications). By the time she finds her ward, Val is a bit rattled and will be made more so by her new colleague Babs (Emma Rigby), who not only recognizes her from their shared prior experience, but who resents Val’s higher minded career objectives. Babs is only interested in snagging a husband and partying with the creepy Nev (Theo Barklem-Biggs), whose humiliation of her only fuels her class resentments. She also appears to know a potentially damaging secret from Val’s past.
Williams, who has a perpetually worried look except when she’s trying to comfort Saba, gets us on Val’s side early and keeps us there, even when sentiment seems to turn against her. The varied ensemble expresses a cross section of perspective, Henry coming on strong during the climax when a comment by the Chief suddenly brings a rush of clarity to her Matron which she expresses wordlessly in two separate looks.
The production features an appropriately aged hospital, beautifully photographed for maximum creepiness with its tiled floors, clanging pipes, steam and respirators adding to an effective sound design. Faith may borrow from “Session 9,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and countless films where a child’s torment is expressed through a notebook full of scribbled black spirals and possession is illustrated with impossible contortions, but her screenplay is so intelligently constructed these conventions blend well into the total effect she’s created.
"The Power" premieres on the Shudder streaming platform on 4/8/21.