Dark Places (2015)

Dark Places (2015)
  • Time: 117 min
  • Genre: Drama | Mystery | Thriller
  • Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
  • Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicholas Hoult, Charlize Theron


A woman who survived the brutal killing of her family as a child is forced to confront the events of that day by a secret society obsessed with solving notorious crimes.


  • Dark Places, the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s second novel, is helmed by French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Flynn wrote Gone Girl, the hugely successful marital mystery which sparked a cultural conversation last year when David Fincher brought it to the big screen. Paquet-Brenner is not David Fincher nor is he Ang Lee. The comparison to Lee is apt because the Taiwanese director has a keen understanding of cultures outside his own, bringing an outsider’s insight into what seem to be uniquely English (Sense and Sensibility) or American (The Ice Storm, Brokeback Mountain) stories.

    Dark Places is set in Kansas, and that detail is an integral part of this tragic tale. Many parts of rural America or the Midwest possess a regionally specific sensibility, which can be God-fearing, conservative, prone to paranoia, and allergic to difference. The Kansas of Dark Places is one that will deem you a failure as a wife and mother if your husband is an alcoholic deadbeat and your four children are wearing hand-me-downs and living on welfare. Never mind that you’re doing all you can to run your farm, put food on table, and keep your family together. If you are Patty Day (Christina Hendricks) and your teenage son Ben (Tye Sheridan) is alleged to be a child molester and a devil worshipper, then it is your fault.

    Perhaps better parenting would have prevented the brutal deaths of Patty and her two eldest daughters at Ben’s hands. Her youngest, Libby, managed to survive the so-called Kansas Prairie Massacre and even profited off her trauma by exploiting the public’s obsession with the killings. Decades later, the public have turned their attentions and donations to other little girls with sad stories to tell. With her funds dwindling, Libby (Charlize Theron) reluctantly agrees to appear as the special guest star at the Kill Club, a group consumed with true crime stories. With the lure of additional cash, the group’s treasurer Lyle (Nicholas Hoult) convinces her to help them prove her brother’s innocence before his files are permanently destroyed.

    “I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ” are the first words uttered by the adult Libby, who firmly believes she has her father’s bad blood coursing through her veins. That biological inheritance is easier to believe than having to confront some very painful truths, including her own shaky testimony which helped to convict her brother. Libby is defensive and antisocial and she does not hesitate to bite the hand that feeds her – traits that made her an endlessly fascinating character on the page. Those characteristics are not quite as pronounced onscreen, but they lose none of their force in Theron’s portrayal. Physically, the distinctly Amazonian actress bears no resemblance to the diminutive protagonist in Flynn’s novel, but that’s no matter. Libby is not defined by her size but rather the internal conflict that erupts when, despite her unwillingness to confront the past, she is drawn to uncover the truth of what really happened on that fateful night.

    Theron expresses the conflict with skill and nuance. Seeing Ben in prison for the first time after almost 30 years, you can sense her trying to reconcile the image of her brother the killer with the brother she loved when she was a little girl. Whilst Theron is her usual excellent self, it is Hendricks who is the most outstanding as the overburdened woman who does not fully appreciate her own strength and worth until it is far too late.

    One can’t significantly fault the film. It is well put together, but it is too straightforward to be impactful. Paquet-Brenner does a good job given the density of plot, but fails to elevate the material into something beyond a mere potboiler. What ultimately unravels the film – and what makes the character’s motivations and final reveal unbelievable – is the director’s inability to understand that Midwestern setting, whose inherent desolation was prime breeding ground for idle hands and confused desperation.

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  • Ever since I saw the trailer I was driven towards seeing “Dark Places”. Firstly, I always like Charlize Theron as an actress and a woman and I enjoy seeing her characterizations which often are full of depth and underline subtext, which divides great actors from good ones. The poster itself was quite interesting to look at. It’s Charlize as the protagonist Libby Day being in the fetal position trying to find peace and serenity. The screenplay was adopted from the Gillian Flynn’s novel by the same name who is also known for his contribution to very well executed movie of 2014 in “Gone Girl”. “Dark Places” might not be equal to the standard and quality set by David Fincher movie but it is enjoyable enough to justify seeing it.
    The set up is straight forward:
    Libby Day was only seven years old when her family was brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. Twenty-five years later, she agrees to revisit the crime and uncovers the wrenching truths that led up to that tragic night.
    As a grown woman (Charlize Theron) confronts traumatic, childhood memories of the murder of her mother and two sisters when she investigates the possibility that her brother (Corey Stoll) is innocent of the crime. Her confession put him in jail for over 20 years.
    This film can be summarized as a coming of age story which might sound weird considering that the protagonist seems to be a grown woman, but as we know people with traumatic childhoods over time do not develop in a normal way and often get stuck in a child like mode for the rest of their life. This is where we meet Charlize in a transition period from the person who whole her life has been running away from the traumatic memories of brutal killings of her family and a guilt of putting her brother in jail for perpetuating this crime. We can see that Charlize is connecting with some inner trauma from her own childhood to deepen the choices behind Libby Day characterizations. As a member of Ivana Chubbuck Studio I am aware of gruesome details from her own childhood which I will not elaborate on considering Ivana’s Master class is like a psychoanalytical session where actors are free to share their deepest secrets to deepen their acting work. Lets say that Charlize past, specially in her childhood has been as traumatic as you can imagine in any thriller movie. She uses the Chubbuck technique to perfection here by adding little compulsive behaviors like tendency to steal things from almost every location she is in. There is plenty of depth here and her inner monologue is extremely well executed bringing underlined communication between her and the audience. The direction by Gilles Paquet-Brenner (director of much loved by me Sarah’s Key) is smooth, yet due to the fact that the film is based on a novel the director chooses to use narration of Charlize through the whole film which in my opinion weakens the structure of the story. Perhaps director worried too much that with such a complex story he needed to have additional tool of narration to explain the story in it’s totality, or perhaps due to the fact that the plot is told from Libby Day’s perspective it was just a natural decision which as much as it seems organic did not serve the actual movie well. The act 2 loses it’s tempo and transforms almost in to a drama instead of a thriller, though act 3 is strong enough to bring the audience back to the story. I do feel this film had a lot of potential which for whatever reason did not get fulfilled. On one hand there is everything in place. Very good preferences from everyone involved including Chloë Grace Moretz, Sterling Jerins playing little Libby, Nicholas Hoult as a amateur old crimes investigator and member of infamous “Kill Club”, a group of people busy with solving old brutal crimes. Christina Hendricks is brilliant as mother of Libby who despite of poverty is trying to do what she things is best for her family and Corey Stoll as grown up Ben Day and his young version Tye Sheridan who is trying to explore his darker side by associating himself with satan worshiping cult.
    Despite of all the depth and talent involved “Dark Places” cannot be considered a masterpiece. There is a problem with the tempo of the movie which loses its bits during the middle point of the story, though it is good enough to justify the price of the ticket.
    If you like dark stories this might be an enjoyable one for you, if you are not in to heavy subjects, issues of satanism and ritualistic sacrifice might be little bit too much for some viewers. I enjoyed “Dark Places” for what it is, a dark intellectually complex story where nothing is what it seems.

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  • Quickie Review:

    Lily Day (Charlize Theron), was eight years old when she witnessed the murder of her family that led to the conviction of her brother. Now decades after the murder Lily revisits the case, which uncovers some disturbing truths behind the events of the murder. Dark Places, conceptually is a very interesting story. The movies explores both the present and past with flashbacks so more and more clues are revealed for the audience to decipher. However, somewhere along the way the movie starts to lose track, resulting in an end that should have wowed but instead will leave you asking “is that it?”

    Full Review:

    Dark Places is an adaption of the novel by Gillian Flynn, the same person who authored Gone Girl. And we all remember the film version of Gone Girl that shocked everyone (except the readers) in cinemas last year. So of course I had to check out Dark Places. Unfortunately I think my expectations were too high.

    The performance by the talented Charlize Theron was great. She gets the audience to change your opinion about her character. You dislike her at first but as you get to understand her tortured side, you start to empathise with her. Christina Hendricks had a crucial role to anchor the flashbacks which she did flawlessly. The movie does a lot of things right associated with a good murder-mystery. The clues are always showed to us rather than being told what to believe. It leaves us to decide who the prime suspect is, and that constantly shifts as more and more evidence is uncovered. That is what grabbed my attention for most of the movie. The title of the movie is perfect, because the story does go into dark places. All the characters are more intriguing because they all have some hidden guilt and secrets that they are afraid to admit.

    The film has a good hook where a sister may have accidentally sentenced her brother to prison for a crime that he may not have committed. However, as the film progresses, very early on the audience can make some very important conclusions, that I believe we shouldn’t have been able to. I’m not saying it’s completely predictable but rather that because we have already made these (correct) conclusions, any scenes that start to contradict that starts to feel unnecessary and is an obvious mislead. So there ends up being several scenes that are not adding to the process of solving the case. Ultimately this makes the story more complicated than it needed to be, and I didn’t feel the final impact of the truth.

    Don’t get me wrong, Dark Places is certainly a serviceable movie. There is some mystery-solving entertainment to be had. Yet the execution of the story by over complicating the case for the sake of false leads is what essentially left the movie from reaching its potential.

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  • This movie is about a crime committed some 30 years ago where the mother and the sisters of Libby Day (Charlize Theron) and her brother, Ben, are murdered. She and her older brother were the only survivors of the crime but, due to the fact of his brother was involved with a satanic group, she blames him of committing it, they go to court and he admits the crime and he ends in the jail. Then, she became a national icon and she was sustained by donations she got during all her life. Thirty years after, most people have forgot about her and, she is almost broke and needs to find a way of getting money. Then, a group of amateurs that enjoy solving crimes and mysteries go in the encounter of the Libby Day saying that they believe his brother was not guilty and, in exchange of money, they ask for her help in finding the truth behind the murdering of her family. Libby Day starts the journey of remembering all the facts behind that night. She then starts to talk again with his brother and she’s going after all the people that could know something about it.

    During this part of the movie, you feel very connected to the story and very intrigued. The characters, they all seem very natural and the interpretation makes you believe the script.

    The main problem of this movie, is how it ends. It has a very anticlimax ending and all theories that you came up during the movie they all fall down. Really poor creativity in here, you really find yourself thinking they didn’t know how to end it.

    So, although it had very positive things, I rated this movie 6 stars, because for me a movie is all about how it ends, and this one was poor!

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