Dark Places
dir-scr Gilles Paquet-Brenner
prd Stephane Marsil, Charlize Theron, AJ Dix, Beth Kono, Matt Jackson, Azim Bolkiah, Matthew Rhodes, Cathy Schulman
with Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Tye Sheridan, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sterling Jerins, Corey Stoll, Natalie Precht, Madison McGuire, Shannon Kook, Drea de Matteo, Sean Bridgers
release US 18.Jun.15, UK 22.Jan.16
15/US Mandalay 1h53
Dark Places
Digging up the past: Hoult and Theron

hendricks sheridan moretz
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Dark Places Intense and insidious, this twisty drama revels in the gloomier recesses of the human psyche, but then it's based on a novel by Gillian Flynn. As with Gone Girl, this is a complex and involving story that plays with ideas of fact and fiction. It's also packed with complex, messy characters who are fascinating even as the film turns rather schlocky.

At age 8, Libby (Jerins, then Theron) was the only witness to the murder of her mother (Hendricks) and sisters (Precht and Maguire) in rural Kansas, and she has never managed to move on. In need of cash, she agrees with Lyle (Hoult) to appear at his local event for creepy fans of real-life crimes that have never been convincingly solved. After all these years, Libby is sticking by her story that her brother Ben (Sheridan, then Stoll) was the killer, but these amateur sleuths think otherwise. And Libby begrudgingly begins to see their point.

The film flicks back and forth in time, slowly revealing the perspectives of the young Ben, who was railroaded into a guilty verdict amid communal paranoia about satanism. So the film comes together as a mystery, piecing together clues while layering in riveting, harrowing details. As a whodunit, the film is certainly not short on suspects, including Libby's deadbeat dad (Bridgers) and a devil-worshipping rocker (Kook).

Performances are edgy and emotive, as the gifted cast allows the audience to peer into each characters' inner life. The roles for Theron and Hendricks are particularly meaty, and both deliver wrenching authenticity as women trying to do the right thing in the wrong way. Sheridan is impressive as the offbeat kid at the centre of the story, riddled with doubts about himself and everyone around him; Stoll shines in his few scenes as the grown-up character. And Moretz is strong in a smaller role as his pregnant wild-child girlfriend.

This is a fascinating exploration of how rumours, lies and self-delusion gain weight when they're given power by people who can't be see a more complicated truth. So it's a bit disappointing that the story concludes with a series of shock revelations and violent assaults. All of these are cleverly depicted as acts of desperation, although they feel rather contrived and sensationalistic rather than meaningful. Still, there's no denying the film's strong emotional kick.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 22.Jan.16

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Dark Places Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall