After a tragedy occurs, what happens next? When a child loses their whole family to darkness and death, where do they go from there? When a teenager is accused of an atrocity they didn’t commit and is sentenced to life in a prison cell, what kind of person will they become? When a stranger knocks on the door with the idea to set the story straight, what kind of truth will they demand be acknowledged?
Dark Places (available on demand now via DirecTV, and in theaters on 8/7) is the second film to be made based on a bestselling novel by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. Charlize Theron plays Libby Day, a woman who has locked herself away from the world after the majority of her family was brutally murdered one night when she was very young. Her testimony helped put her brother behind bars, and since then she’s lived off the monetary kindness of others and by selling her story to the highest bidder. But now the money has run out and her only financial assistance is coming from a group of would-be detectives who think there is more to the murder of her mother and two older sisters than was previously known. Libby agrees to work with the group, at first hesitantly and later because of her own desire to know the truth. What really happened that night long ago when she lost everyone she loved?
Like Gone Girl before it, Dark Places is a twisty thriller that showcases multiple sides to the story. Libby was just a little girl when she witnessed the murder of her family and her memory of that night is spotty at best. She knows she had a mother and sisters and a brother and that in the middle of the night she woke to find most of them dead and what appeared to be her brother responsible. But she was not the only one in the house that night. Her brother remembers his own side of the story, which involves sex and drugs and Satan and a desperate need to do the right thing for the girl he was in love with. And the film also shows, through flashbacks, the side of Libby Day’s mother – a woman with four children and no money to support them, a farm that was worthless, and a town demanding blood after her son was accused of a terrible crime. To solve the great mystery of the film, Libby has to follow the trail of all three stories and see the truth where they converge.
Unfortunately, unlike Gone Girl, Dark Places fails to truly take viewers along for the emotional ride it wants them to experience. Though Charlize Theron is an extremely talented actress and plays prickly, angry, closed-off Libby Day to the best of her ability, there is very little to like or relate to in the main character. She’s a beautiful woman leading an ugly life who gets dragged into a mystery for selfish reasons and stays because she can’t seem to help herself. She is surrounded by two-dimensional characters (including Lyle, played by Nicholas Hoult who recently starred alongside Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road) who do little to enrich the story and who really seem superfluous the plot most times. And the ending, while surprising in some elements, feels forced and contrived in others.
Overall this film leaves you feeling like there should be MORE. More story, more character development, more time figuring things out and revealing the truth of the central mystery. Which is surprising considering how much voice-over and exposition there is to deal with. Every moment of explanation feels forced, as if filmmaker Gilles Paquet-Brenner is desperate to cram as much back story as possible down your throat. But without likable characters or a proper build-up to suspenseful moments and the big murder mystery reveal, Dark Places falls short of taking viewers on the dark journey it intends.
Brittni Williams is a freelance writer and blogger from the Midwest. After finishing up school in Arizona, she picked up and moved to Chicago where she currently resides with her cat, Pockets. She primarily covers entertainment topics and the occasional DIY piece. Her interests include playing tennis, traveling, and scouring the city for the best tacos. Find her on Twitter @brittni303
Have you seen Dark Places? Let us know what you think!