Film Review: The Moth Diaries (A Gothic Tale Set in the Present)

An Eerie Tale set against the backdrop of a creepy boarding school – I’m in!

the moth diariesRebecca returns to her all girls boarding school at the start of a new term and attempts to leave the tragedy of her father’s suicide behind her. She’s delighted to be reunited with her friends, especially Lucy, and is pleasantly surprised to find the school has acquired a handsome new teacher, Mr. Davies (Scott Speedman). All is going well until the new girl arrives. Ernessa is pale and strange, and she steals Lucy from Rebecca, at least that is how Rebecca sees it.

The Moth Diaries is an Irish/Canadian production. It stars Irish actress, Sarah Bolger. You  may recognise her from The Tudors or as Princess Aurora in Once Upon A Time. British model and actress, Lily Cole, plays Ernessa, the strange new girl.

The teacher is discussing gothic fiction and vampires in literature; he points out the three components present in every vampire story: sex, blood and death. They’re reading Carmilla, and Rebecca soon becomes convinced Ernessa is one of the undead. Is there something supernatural afoot, or is Rebecca simply going mad?

The creepy boarding school is an appropriately spooky setting. The students wear uniforms and for some weird reason wear Victorian style white nightdresses to bed. While the plot may be slow and a little mundane, all the tropes of a good gothic tale are there: the old building with hidden nooks and crannies, the young girl writing in her diary and reading by a window while a full moon hangs outside, and the isolated setting.

Rebecca is in love with her roommate or at least has confused feelings. Lucy in turn seems to fall for Ernessa. Are Lucy and Ernessa sleeping together, or is Ernessa feeding on her, or is Rebecca hallucinating? (I kept thinking of Black Swan when watching this – I never did decide if Rebecca was just imagining things).

I just wish this film had been a little more special. It’s worth watching alone for the setting, creepy vibe and gorgeous imagery. Clouds passing in front of the huge moon, the gloomy setting and the isolation of boarding school life are all very gothic. There is a languid tone to this film. It had the potential to be a great indie drama, but it never reaches those heights. It’s quite slow moving in parts. I was disappointed the teacher didn’t get more screen time and the hints of an illicit relationship between him and Rebecca were never realised. Yes, I like to watch scandalous things! 🙂

I loved the cinematography so much, I’m going to check out the book now. Maybe that will bring the characters more to life than the film does.  The Moth Diaries may be dull in parts, but it’s a visual treat. ***

Are you intrigued, or does it all sound a bit blah? Have you heard of this film or the book it’s based on?

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About Emma

Buffy fan, avid reader, writer.
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17 Responses to Film Review: The Moth Diaries (A Gothic Tale Set in the Present)

  1. I’ve never heard of it, but it sound like something I would love! Where can I locate you think?

  2. Mae Clair says:

    I’m not so wild about the story on this one but the settings sound divine, a visual treat. I love brooding gothic stuff. I remember loving The Woman in Black for the settings but being disappointed overall in the movie and the story. I guess sometimes we can’t have it all! 🙂

    • Emma says:

      The setting is gorgeous, but the story itself isn’t great. I was disappointed watching this, thought it would be more special. I still have to watch The Woman in Black.

  3. OooOoooh, it sounds positively delightful. I love the vibe of it from your description and am going to put it in my queue. Perfect for a chilly winter day.

  4. Never heard of it, but I’m definitely intrigued! I’ll have to check it out 🙂

  5. I’ve heard of it, but I didn’t know what it was about. I’m torn because I love eerie settings, but I also don’t like to waste what little time I have with mediocre films. So I’m not sure. If you had loved it, I would probably give it a shot, but….

  6. I actually saw this movie, then forgot all about it until reading your post. I do remember the cinematography being excellent, and I do remember enjoying it, but since I completely forgot about it I must not have liked it that much. I can’t really say why i found the film to be so forgettable: the acting was decent, the atmosphere and setting were fantastic, I loved how the movie set the theme of gothic novels having sex, blood, and death and then never really gave us those as if saying “look we’re different”, but for some reason this movie just gets stuck in a sulci and never pops out. Thanks for the memories

    • Emma says:

      Yeah, I guess I didn’t think it was great myself, but I watched till the end so it must have done something right, and that was the cinematography. You’re right, they had all the ingredients to give us something exciting and different, but they didn’t come through.

  7. beckyday6 says:

    Hmmm….I think my friend may have the book of this on her bookshelf….I never realised it was a film too!!

  8. I’ve heard of this, but haven’t read the book or seen the movie. Saw Black Swan, though, but didn’t like it at all.

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