There’s a lot to remark upon in The Darkest Minds. It’s a story of a society broken down by fear of children and a group of young survivors negotiating their own development and making their way towards liberation. It is representationally interesting, the central character a young black girl through whose eyes the film is filtered.
Depictions of children being rounded up into concentration camps disturbingly echoes the actions of ICE under the Trump administration, not to mention countless other examples of segregation and incarceration of peoples throughout history. The central theme of a young woman making herself invisible in order to satisfy others and smooth her path through life is worked through intelligently and tragically.
It’s visually uninspiring, and lacks charm and flair, but The Darkest Minds is an interesting and heartfelt teen movie for an increasingly enlightened young audience.
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This is now, after Twilight and Thirteen, the third Catherine Hardwicke film I’ve seen and the third I’ve liked. Twilight-bashers should have a look all of these films together, particularly so that they can see what was lost by not having Hardwicke direct the Twilight sequels: women’s longing for a romantic ideal, the desiring female gaze, men depicted as quasi-Byronic figures of romance; Hardwicke shows us how men are seen by women who like them. In each of these film she shows a real feel for adolescent yearning and competitiveness, mostly set in working class milieus of one kind or another. She shows an understanding of moms trying to keep things together (Holly Hunter is magnificent in Thirteen; Rebecca de Mornay just as good here, and unrecognizable) and has a lovely way of capturing adolescent beauty on that borderline between innocence and transgression. Hardwicke’s good at depicting rivalry too, particularly between girls.
Lords of Dogtown has some well-realised sequences (the girls singing to Cher’s ‘Half-breed’), some lovely performances (Heath Ledger, but all the boys as well) and the director sure has an eye for discovering talented unknowns: Jeremy Renner in an early role, Jimmy Knoxville, Sofia Vergara in what must be one of her first roles also – uncredited, though I swear it’s him, is Jon Hamm as a delivery man. The two leads of Thirteen, Nikki Read and Rachel Evan Wood, play rivals here. There are images of an industrial working-class-verging on sub-prole communities that look as if seen through a seductive drug-hazed glow and help evoke the milieu, place and period in which it is set: skate and surf-boy culture in the Santa Monica area of Dogtown in the 1970s. Lovely.