IN DARKNESS Review – Natalie Dormer Shines in a Movie Too Ambitious For Its Own Good
Written by Anthony Byrne, Natalie Dormer
Directed by Anthony Byrne
Violent thrillers, especially ones with intricately woven storylines, are a subgenre I absolutely adore. Films that leave me wondering what the greater, overarching story holds will always draw my attention. That is, unless they don’t. Alas, such is the case with In Darkness, which was written and produced by Natalie Dormer and Anthony Byrne, the latter of whom also acted as director.
The film follows Sofia (Dormer), a blind pianist who hears the murder of her upstairs neighbor Veronique (Ratajkowski). Questioned by police and caught in a cat-and-mouse game thanks to the status of Veronique’s father Radic, a ruthless war criminal tied to the Bosnian/Serbian conflict, Sofia must navigate between authorities and criminals through London’s busy streets.
Beautifully filmed and imbued with gorgeous music from Niall Byrne, In Darkness features a fantastic performance from Dormer, who conveys strength, vulnerability, and inner turmoil throughout. It’s clear that Dormer took care in her portrayal of a blind woman, researching the role carefully in an effort to bring it authenticity and respect. Juxtaposing uncomfortably close shots, bringing us right into her sightless world, to wider landscapes that showcase how perilous and unpredictable the world she lives in really is, the film gives us the opportunity to live in the same world as Sofia and her blindness.
While she shines, every other character, no matter how well they are played, feels so secondary and forgettable that it all becomes a mess of who’s who. Neil Maskell’s “Mills”, the police investigator in charge of investigating Veronique’s death, is little more than a caricature, constantly shoving food in his unshaven face, bumbling around to find little while solving even less. Skrein’s “Marc” does little more than act as Sofia’s guardian angel (albeit quite a violent one) while failing to offer any real development of his own. Without spoiling anything, the pain he endures does not explain who he is as a character or what he’s even really doing in the greater story. The same goes for Richardson’s “Alex”, who is Marc’s sister and somehow has an in with Radic.
The plot becomes increasingly convoluted as the overly long runtime ticks slowly, frustratingly, away. Sofia, who at first seems to be little more than “in the wrong place at the wrong time”, begins to unveil more of her own story that feels unfortunately contrived. For every new development, the script conveniently finds a way to explain how it fits into the greater puzzle even if that explanation falls flat or feels wholly unbelievable. It all culminates in a violent ending that unveils a painfully obvious twist that serves no real purpose, serving only to undermine everything that came before.
Offering nothing new, In Darkness also falls upon tired tropes that feel outdated. As Sofia walks along the streets of London at night, she stumbles across a group of young troublemakers. The scene quickly escalates until she’s knocked on the ground and they threaten her with sexual assault and rape. Marc quickly jumps in to save the day but it feels like such an unnecessary moment. The scene even forces the confrontation with Sofia willingly offering money that none of the hoodlums demanded, as if Byrne and Dormer realized that they needed to do something in order to coerce this tension. The scene did help connect Sofia and Marc but it was done in a clunky, amateurish manner.
In Darkness is a solid enough entry in the thriller world but it is also an entirely forgettable one. It’s a shame because with a cast this good, so much more could have, and should have, been done.
In Darkness may feature a fantastic performance from Natalie Dormer but the rest of the film falters in bringing anything new, or even remotely exciting, to the table.