The story could be interesting but is not dealt with convincingly enough. Libby Day (Charlize Theron) is a local celebrity, albeit of a somewhat morbid kind. When she was seven-years-old she was present in the house when her mother (Christina Hendricks) was murdered alongside her two sisters at the farmhouse home in Kansas.
Libby testified at the time against her – then – teenage brother Ben, who she was convinced, then, had murdered her family. Now 30, Libby is approached by Lyle Worth (Nicholas Hoult) an amateur sleuth who, along with his little club of like nerds believes that Ben is innocent and wants Libby to help them prove it. Because she needs the money that Lyle is offering, Libby reluctantly agrees.
As Libby looks back, she faces her own demons. The past story is told in flashback so we get two fairly distinct timelines. The result is that we don’t learn anything much about the club that Lyle is part of. Nor are we really able to come to grips with the character of the teenage Ben (Tye Sheridan) other than to learn that he announces that he is a Satanist. The adult Ben (Cory Stoll) is more effective. He has been in prison 28 years and Lyle and his group believe that this is a miscarriage of justice.
As the film is based on the novel by Gillian Flynn (who wrote Gone Girl), we have rightly expected better. Parts of the film are, indeed, thrilling but just as we are becoming involved in now or in the past, the action switches to the other time.
Charlize Theron is lovely to look at and the baseball cap that she wears only partly disguises this. Not a bad performance but not as dramatically intense as we would have hoped for. There is a nice little performance by Chloë Grace Moretz as Ben’s rich, somewhat eccentric girlfriend Diondra. The best acting comes from Christina Hendricks who plays the single mother of the family very movingly.
The director could have dealt with the various elements in a smoother fashion. There was a lot of background noise: often music over the dialogue and even car noise which is too loud as they drive and talk.
The twists of the thriller almost peter out by the end. So some good bits which get lost in the convoluted filming.
Review by Carlie Newman
Dark Places is out now on home entertainment.