What I'm Watching: Children of a Darker Dawn
Merry Christmas Eve!
What did Santa Jason bring you for your early present?
Why, it's a review of Children of a Darker Dawn!
This movie can be summed up as a modern day take on Lord of the Flies, but on a global scale, and this particular corner of the post-apocalypse taking place in Ireland.
So SO many things there I should love. Sadly, calling up "Lord of the Flies" as a cultural touchstone is actually a bad idea. This is nowhere near as good, and never quite reaches the levels of societal commentary of that movie.
In short, a strange virus infects the populace, and it drives all the adults crazy, and eventually death, leaving the kids to pick up the slack. Fortunately, with all the hosts dead, the virus soon dies out leaving the kids to grow up in effed up land.
We zero in on the journeys of two girls, sisters, Evie and Fran. They're trying to keep to themselves, stay alive, find shelter...you know the drill in these stories.
It's not long before they run into a larger group of teens trying to survive, and willing to take harsher means to meet that goal.
They take the girls' food, and leave one of their own with the sisters, but the new trio soon run into yet another group, and the FIRST other group comes along shortly after.
The reason this doesn't quite meet Lord of the Flies territory is that the characters all feel a little samey, or just not well drawn out. Most characters are defined by yelling, and there's no real societal heirarchy. Just teens running into each other and trying to take their food.
I'm also trying to decide how I feel about the production values. Most of the movie takes place in abandoned homes, that look sufficiently decrepit, but they don't look like they've *ever* been lived in. Now, you could say that they've been picked clean by previous travelers, but there should still be some set dressing. Same with the costumes. Most of them looked like they were just what the actors wore to set, which actually *works* by feeling genuine, but doesn't work because of a lack of planning. It feels both too real by being perfectly normal, and too fake, causing a weird tonal dissonance in the style and look of the surroundings.
Now, the acting IS pretty good in this, way better than I'd expect, based on the ages and experience of most of the cast. While they can get a bit shouty, when they're not, when they're just interacting, there's a decent genuine quality to it. And the actress playing Fran really hits on a lot of the same notes that Maisie Williams does, as Arya on Game of Thrones. In all the right ways, let me say. Again, she gives in to histrionics from time to time, but she's a kid who has seen everyone she knows except her sister die, so I can excuse that behaviour.
Darker Dawn never quite seems to latch onto a whole story. There's bits and pieces here, there's vignettes almost that work, and they show other things that are intriguing, and make you wish that the movie was more about that, but it never quite gets to those things.
Especially a series of shots towards the end of a group of girls going full on Hannibal Lecter on someone they come across. Now this, THIS should be terrifying, and it does cause some chills. A group of kids, none of them more than 15, many even around ten, bringing down a person by sheer force of numbers and doing what they can to survive? Why is the movie not about these people? We never even run into them during this story! They're just told by someone as flashback! Or maybe as a warning of the world to come, that was never quite clear.
The movie has a number of moments like that; intriguing ideas that are ultimately unconnected, and would have been a better narrative to follow. The flashbacks and teases of what happened to these kids are the truly interesting things. I almost think this would have worked better with the 'current' story being a wraparound, and making those flashbacks of what came before as more of an anthology story type model. As it is, nothing is given enough time, and just kinda glossed over what we really want to see.
Still, the acting is good, and the story isn't BAD, what there is, but I never quite managed to connect with this movie. There's something there though, and some people are digging it, so if you have a chance, I do say give it a shot. There is some good stuff there, it just never landed for me. I definitely plan to give it another look in the near future. It's got something there that just didn't quite connect during my first viewing.