Heartbreaking secrets are uncovered in Dark Places, a haunting thriller that shines a hopeful light on the human condition and broken lives.
Adapted from Gillian's Flynn's 2009 novel, which preceded her breakout hit Gone Girl, it features Charlize Theron immersing herself heart and soul in the character of a Libby Day, a woman whose entire life is based on a lie.
The tragic circumstances that shaped Day's existence and turned her into a 'celebrity' occurred on a farm in Kansas, where she was the only surviving witness of a horrific massacre that took the lives of her mother and sisters.
Believing the slaughter to be the work of a Satanic cult, she testified in court against her own brother and almost 30 years after the murder, she remains haunted by the gruesome violence of her past.
Her funds run out and in a desperate attempt to get money she meets the leader of a group of amateur true-crime enthusiasts (Nicholas Hoult) who call themselves 'The Kill Club', and is persuaded to unearth painful memories and possibly prove her brother's innocence.
Theron plays another wounded character in search of redemption, following similar roles in Monster and Mad Max: Fury Road.
A gloomy and gritty journey
French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner (who also wrote the screenplay) has created a taut character piece that takes us on a gloomy and gritty journey into the lives of characters that live in the shadows of humanity.
Paquet-Brenner came to the attention of art-house fans with his 2001 film Pretty Things starring Marion Cotillard, and his recent English-language film includes Walled In and Sarah's Key (2010).
What makes the film work extremely well is its rich inner life that drives the main plot and illuminates the mindscape of tortured souls on an unforgiving path to redemption and forgiveness.
It's great to see Theron and Hoult reunite after their gruelling connection in Mad Max: Fury Road, with great support from Christina Hendricks as the shady seductress who holds the key to enlightenment, and Corey Stoll as a man whose life was stolen from him through tragic circumstances.
Dark Places takes us to places that often remain hidden, showing how mendacity can destroy the relationship between a sister and her brother, and also how it can unite those who were destroyed by its clout.
If you are looking for a strong character-driven film in the tradition of Monster and Lost River, Dark Places offers superb human drama that won't disappoint.
Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit www.writingstudio.co.za