|The Frankfurt-Tipp rating:
|Approx. 113 min.
Libby Day (Charlize Theron) was just a little girl when her mother Patty (Christina Hendricks) and her two sisters were brutally murdered. Libby's testimony landed her brother Ben (Tye Sheridan) in prison. The case became a media spectacle and the little girl was given the sympathy of an entire country, which translated into numerous donations that Libby was able to live off of for a long time. Now, 30 years later, interest in the case has died down. Libby's book no longer brings in any revenue, and the donations have long since run out as well. So Libby somewhat reluctantly agrees when young Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult) offers her $500 to help a small community of amateur investigators reopen the case. Because Lyle's group is convinced that Ben (Corey Stoll) is innocent. And so Libby forces herself to ask the question she's successfully suppressed for 30 years: What really happened that horrific night? Might her brother really not be the culprit? But she has no idea that even after 30 years, the truth can still be extremely dangerous.
The thriller-drama Dark Places is based on the novel of the same name by bestselling author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl). It was directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, who has already shown a knack for quiet yet extremely intense suspense cinema in Sarah's Key. With a great ensemble and atmospheric imagery, Paquet-Brenner spins a dense web of lies, fear and passion on two time levels that manages to reach a very high level of tension in some moments. But overall, the film suffers from telling the story a wee bit too ponderously and dwelling too long on subplots without really moving the story forward.
There's no question that the flashbacks in particular, which suggest that young Ben's love for Diondra (Chloe Grace Moretz) has led him to do the cruel thing he did, are very well acted and show in a stirring way how the boy is unwittingly drawn into a spiral of lies, Satanism and manipulation and that his motivation is actually a very responsible one. But at some point these flashbacks just seem a bit tough and tread dramaturgically on the spot, so that despite the atmospherically very dense production here and there a little bit of boredom arises.
The finale is unfortunately not intense enough to pull something out of it. On the contrary: the somewhat too careful build-up of tension seems to dissolve too easily at the end, which is already disappointing. Still, even if Dark Places isn't a great thriller-drama, in the end it's still a good one that thrives on strong actors and a stirringly bleak visual language. Paquet-Brenner has directed a gritty piece about coming to terms with the past, guilt and forgiveness that falls just short of being able to deliver what the interesting premise promises. And for that, the bottom line is a good one: worth seeing!
An article by Frankfurt-Tipp