Cinematic Releases: In Darkness (2018) - Reviewed

Blindness, possibly more than any other malady, is fascinating to those who are not disabled by it. A number of films have been made that attempt to shine light on the darkness experienced by those without sight, and, as is with most things, some are more successful than others. 2018’s In Darkness, co-written by Natalie Dormer (who pulls double duty as the film’s star, as well) and Anthony Byrne, takes a stylistic approach, using sound design and score to showcase not only the possibly heightened auditory senses experienced by the blind, but also the extreme tension and unease of the characters in the film as they move farther and farther into the mystery. There is much, much more to the story than what is presented on the surface, and while the journey isn’t perfect, it’s a hell of an enjoyable, twisty thrill-ride.

Opening on an in studio orchestra busy at work playing a score for a scary movie, the audience immediately senses the importance of the score and sound design will have on this film. Niall Byrne’s original score is haunting and immersing, accomplishing what every great score should; highlighting cues and ramping up intensity when the audience feels they couldn’t possibly be tenser. The score is even more important considering our heroine is a pianist who happens to play in the orchestra mentioned earlier. Music plays a role so large, it could be considered a cast member. The sound design and editing, headed by Harold Ansorge, are not to be overlooked either. At times throughout the film, sounds are amplified then muffled and background noises increase in both number and volume in an effort to allow the audience to empathize more with Sofia’s world and experience some of the overwhelming confusion that someone who cannot see may encounter in their daily life.

The success of the film rests on Dormer’s competent shoulders, and she tackles the intensely complex, layered character of Sofia with exquisite preciseness. There are many times during the film where the camera focuses on Sofia’s unseeing eyes and the amount of emotion and passion in her sightless gaze is, frankly, amazing. Dormer has the ability to showcase strength inside of vulnerability, a coldness inside her appeal, which lends dimension and credibility to the character she’s portraying. This ability is especially important in a character as tangled and tortured as Sofia. Drawing the audience deeper and deeper into her world and adding intrigue to the complicated story unfolding, she also grounds the character and the audience with her performance. With a script so complex it teeters on the edge of convolution, Dormer’s excellent performance keeps the audience focused, involved, and most importantly, invested in the chaos that has become Sofia’s life.

While the plot is extremely dense and becomes more than a little complicated the deeper the story goes, the wheels never fall off and the resulting conclusions have a huge impact on the audience. Some twists may be guessed by the audience early on in the film, but until the final scenes where the whole picture is finally revealed, the film does its job keeping the audience intrigued and unsure of what’s going to happen next. Though not without its flaws, In Darkness is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a deeply twisty thriller that is more than what it seems on the surface.

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-Josie Stec