Review: The Moth Diaries / Cert: 15 / Director: Mary Harron / Screenplay: Mary Harron / Starring: Sarah Bolger, Lily Cole, Sarah Gadon, Anne Day-Jones, Scott Speedman / Release Date: September 16th
The Moth Diaries is most certainly a film open to interpretation. Based on the Rachel Klein novel of the same name, the story focuses on Rebecca (Bolger), a girl who goes back to boarding school after losing her father to suicide. Upon her return, she invests all of her time and thoughts into her friends, particularly Lucy (Gadon). New on the scene is Ernessa (Cole), a mysterious, brooding figure who gets rather close with Lucy, causing Rebecca to suspect that there’s more to Ernessa than meets the eye. Part psychological horror, part classic vampire tale, and with a whole lot of homoeroticism thrown in for good measure, The Moth Diaries is a unique, stylish tale. There are nods to old classic vampire tales, whilst visually the film is in the mould of Stoker.
Still, whilst the film looks stunning – the tone, colouring and texturing are all fantastically put together – there are some problems with the story. Seemingly scared to commit to a particular route, The Moth Diaries loiters and toils in cinematic purgatory for a good portion of the middle act. The film establishes its story well, and the end is what it is, but it’s the middle that stagnates and drags. As a result, by the time the ending does come, some viewers may have lost the will to care.
As for the film’s key characters, they are a mixed bag. The main group of friends are made up of several throwaway characters at best, with only Rebecca, Lucy and Ernessa given any real depth. Due to this, the performances, bar Bolger, Gadon and Cole, are all nondescript and just there to fill screen time. Even Scott Speedman, a personal favourite, is neither here nor there. His character suffers the same fate as the film itself, as it seems to be a victim of poorly timed cuts and jittery scene placement.
The star of the show here is clearly Lily Cole. Her doll-like features add perfectly to the mysterious Ernessa, and she puts in a great, sleek, slick turn here. As mentioned, Bolger and Gadon are also good, but they only really stand out due to being the only characters to get adequate time to shine.
The Moth Diaries turns out to be style over substance, as Harron seems to fill the film with needless, drawn-out scenes. That said, it's by no means a disaster, and given its array of boobs, blood and bat-shit craziness, fans of slick, lesbian-overtoned, possibly vampiric/possibly mentally aberrant tales will find a lot to take from this. That’s quite the subgenre, though.