Charlize Theron stars in this film adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel, about a woman whose entire family was slaughtered by her satan-worshipping teenage brother when she was just six. Libby Day has spent her life living off the charity of strangers who made donations to her cause, but with her funds dwindling, she accepts an invite to a Murder Club, a place where amateur detectives try to solve famous crimes. There she is cajoled into facing her past, where not all the clues add up, in exchange for the cash she so desperately needs.
Set in Kansas, the film has an interesting US mid-west feel that not many films have, and the locations are incredibly evocative of an era and a lifestyle that can be isolating. Set against the backdrop of a farming crisis in the 80s, we slowly piece things together through flashback as Libby explores her past, a lot of which she is too young to even remember. Questions are raised as to what Libby really saw and even she begins to question herself and her brother's motives.
But it’s not just a crime story. Libby has been living alone for a long time, she is a survivor who has partly kept going on the strength of her anger and grief. There is a quiet rage inside her, she has a child-like demanding attitude, and a need to steal useless things and hoard others, as though she’s preparing for a bleak future. The film is a portrait of what happens to the people left behind. There’s a kind of unwanted celebrity to their lives, as well as a complete dislocation from so great a loss. Libby cannot be a normal, productive member of society. She doesn’t know how.
There are brilliant supporting cast in the flashback scenes (Tye Sheridan and Chloe Moretz as the younger version of Libby’s brother and his girlfriend) and in the present (Hoult and Stoll as the Murder Club president and her convict brother), and the story is told masterfully.
It’s an enjoyable film, with a good solid mystery at it’s heart, and characters that are incredibly intriguing. But it feels a little loose and unsatisfying in one or two points at the end, which I think is the reason that it hasn’t been a bigger hit. But if you’re a fan of Gillian Flynn and you like to see interesting female characters, this film should keep you happy.
EXTRAS: Two great short documentaries that should please fans. Bringing the Dark to Light (23:00) the director, producers, actors and the author, Gillian Flynn, go in depth about how they approached the story, the characters, and translating the book to the silver screen. About The Author (9:16) where Flynn, and some of the cast and crew, talk about the authors influences, like the Truman Capote book In Cold Blood, and the Kansas location. Fascinating.