Dark Places, first screened last year, stars (and is produced by) Charlize Theron, and is based on a book by that gifted author Gillian Flynn, whose Gone Girl is (arguably) the finest crime novel of the past ten years. And it is certainly not a bad film. But as that damning-with-faint-praise sentence suggests, it is hardly a masterpiece, either.
In addition to Gone Girl, I've read Flynn's excellent novel Sharp Objects, but I've not got round to Dark Places, so I didn't know quite what to expect as regards the film's storyline. In fact, it offers a great deal of potential. Libby (played by Theron) has survived a sensational killing thirty years ago in which her mother and two siblings died. Her brother Ben was convicted of the crimes, and is still in prison.
Libby is approached by a chap from a "Kill Club", an intriguingly eccentric bunch with a passion for real life crimes, and this prompts her to revisit her past. What she finds there, needless to say, is macabre and distressing. And - you are ahead of me here - it turns out that all was not as it seemed.
The premise is clever, and there is a lot to admire in this film. But Theron's muted performance - she spends almost the whole film looking moody and wearing a baseball cap - sums the film up: an opportunity has been wasted. Instead of a suspense classic, we have a rather protracted so-so mystery, and as a result we don't care very much about the truth of the crime, or about what happens to the protagonists. I came to this film with high expectations, which were to some extent disappointed. A real shame.