Dark Places Review
by Nav Qateel
8-year-old Libby Day is the sole witness to her family being massacred. Everything seems to point to her older brother Ben being responsible, as the teenage boy is allegedly a Satan worshiper. Even Libby testifies against him at the trial. After spending almost 28 years in prison, a group of crime hobbyists known as The Kill Club decide Ben’s case was clearly a miscarriage of justice and want Libby to help them prove his innocence. But Ben has never tried to speak out against his conviction. Why? And if Ben didn’t murder the Day family … who did?
Based on the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name, Dark Places is from French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Paquet-Brenner’s last effort, Sarah’s Key, the superb war drama starring Kristin Scott Thomas, was certainly a stronger outing by the filmmaker, yet Dark Places managed to hit more than enough solid notes to raise it above its contemporaries. It may lack the class and slickness of the previous Gillian Flynn adaptation, David Fincher’s Gone Girl, but that would be an unfair comparison to make.
Libby Day is played by Charlize Theron, who manages this role with the same sort of ease she demonstrated when she won her Oscar in Monster, playing murderess Aileen Wuornos. But unlike the confident swagger of Wuornos, and although just as emotionally damaged, Libby Day has turned all of her feelings inwards. Theron slouches and drags her feet throughout the movie, like someone bearing the weight of the world on their shoulders. Whenever anyone invades her personal space, or worse, tries to touch her, Libby almost leaps in the air like a hissing cat about to strike. It’s clear that her wounds have never truly came close to healing, leaving this shell of a woman that lives from the handouts she’s given by wellwishers. However, the money is almost gone and no one remembers or cares anymore about “the girl that lived.”
When Lyle (Nicholas Hoult) comes along with an offer of money, just for Libby to talk to his Kill Club about the murder of her family, she quickly discovers the case against her brother wasn’t as cut and dry as it appeared to be. Libby learns of Diondra (Moretz), Ben’s mysterious girlfriend, someone Libby didn’t even know existed, and a young woman the audience learns about in flashbacks. Could Diondra hold a clue to Ben’s innocence?
This is the second film in a row for Nicholas Hoult and Charlize Theron, as they both recently co-starred in Mad Max: Fury Road. Hoult, like Chloë Grace Moretz, was pretty much sidelined in Dark Places, and neither got a chance to show off the talent we know they both have in abundance. Although Nicholas Hoult or Chloë Grace Moretz can headline a film and guarantee sales on their names alone, the film belonged to Charlize Theron.
My only criticism of Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s effort would be the lack of thrills that one would expect of material penned by Gillian Flynn. Thankfully, the acting and pacing carried the film to an above average conclusion, making Dark Places more a minor success than a major one. But a success nonetheless and well worth seeing.