In the years before World War II, the Augusta-Victoria College, a girls’ boarding school in Bexhill-on-Sea, catered to a very specific audience: The daughters and goddaughters of important Germans and high ranking Nazi officials. It is believed that the intent of the school was to educate the girls in the language and British customs and was part of a strategy to keep England and Germany close. Patches on their uniforms displayed a union jack and a swastika.
It’s this patch that caught the eye of Eddie Izzard years ago at a local museum. Izzard is also a product of Bexhill, although she was born in the 1960s. But the idea of this school and this seemingly underwritten chapter in history was intriguing enough to set her on a yearslong journey researching the peculiar institution that operated in plain sight when anti-German sentiment was quite high. The result is “” a decent thriller that dials up the excitement around the Augusta-Victoria College with invented murders, intrigue, cops, spies and a secret plot to get the girls out of England before the war breaks out.
Izzard, who co-wrote the script with Celyn Jones (who also acts in the film) and director Andy Goddard, plays the part of Thomas Miller, who comes to the school to interview for a position after the previous teacher, Mr. Wheatley (Nigel Lindsay), disappears. The headmistress, Miss Rocholl (Judi Dench) is a little wary of Miller’s journeyman resume but gives him a shot after she learns that his father was German and he speaks the language. He quickly endears himself to most of the girls but also starts noticing more and more oddities about the propaganda-y instruction of the school’s German instructor Ilse (Carla Juri) — who listens to Nazi broadcasts and leads “sieg heil” chants.