THE POWER (2020)
Directed & written by Corinna Faith.
Starring Rose Williams, Emma Rigby, Charlie Carrick, Clara Read, Paul Antony-Barber, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Diveen Henry, Robert Goodman, Marley Chesham, Nuala McGowan, Shakira Rahman, Joe Haddow, Maria Major
Rose Williams plays Val, a new nurse at a hospital in the 1970’s England where due to the sagging economy, mandated blackouts occur across the land. After rubbing her new supervisor the wrong way, Val is placed on the night shift during one of these blackouts on her first shift. While the optimistic Val has high hopes to help others as a nurse, when the lights go out, trauma from Val’s past as well as dark secrets hidden in the hospital come back to haunt her.
THE POWER is a wonderfully atmospheric film filled with deep darkness that pulls you in and threatens never to let go. Much of the film is simply Val walking through the dark hallways of the hospital, but because of some marvelous foreshadowing and an effective use of sound such as whispers, clangs, and all sorts of odd noises, each step Val takes is excruciating to watch as the terror could come from any direction. Lit by a single lamp or candle, these scenes of utter darkness are what’ll be the thing that sparks nightmares after watching this incredible little ghost story.
But THE POWER plays with metaphor quite masterfully as well as the title suggests the lack of power that is going on during the blackouts, as well as the lack of power the nurses have as the lower rung on the hospital totem pole. If you’ve ever worked in a hospital, you know the pecking order is established and not to be messed with. And anyone stepping outside of their station will definitely be tamped down post haste. This point is made clear from the very beginning as the meek and starry-eyed Val enters the hospital on her first day and makes all of the wrong moves upon her arrival. THE POWER also comes into play involving the subject of sexual assault in a way that is timely, yet indicative that the powerful taking advantage of the powerless is something that sadly, is not a new thing. Writer/director Corinna Faith not only knows how to make the shadows creep and envelop totally, but also knows how to interweave complex and heavy themes into the story to give these shadows even more weight.
Rose Williams is perfect for the role of the mousey nurse Val. She is able to convey someone who has been beaten down into subservience, yet still has a spark of hope. It’s heartbreaking to see what she endures through this film, but the ending, which gets a bit cliched and muddy unfortunately, gives the actress a chance for redemption even though her future looks pretty bleak by the time the credits roll.
Reminiscent of THE VIGIL, another film which utilizes darks in an ingenious way and puts its protagonist alone in the dark in a spooky ass place, THE POWER is another resonant and nerve-shattering reason to fear the dark.