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Coming Home in the Dark (2021)

I have had this film sat on my watch list for some time, though for one reason or another I just never felt compelled to watch it. I knew very little going in and I think that definitely makes for a better viewing experience. I will start by saying it is not for the faint-hearted and that some of the scenes can be quite a difficult watch, it's not overly gorey or violent, just extremely gut-wrenching and I find these situations a lot harder to sit through than most others. This is a horrifying film that is amplified so much more by the plausibility of the subject matter. Everything about this situation feels so realistic that it makes everything feel that bit more terrifying. The opening alone had me so genuinely anxious that I had to watch this film in two sittings, turning it off the first time just moments in due to how uncomfortable it made me feel. I did find that due to the intensity of the opening ten minutes that the rest of the film did suffer slightly, going from such a shocking introduction to these characters everything else that came after felt underwhelming in comparison. The acting is sublime, mainly held up by the menacingly violent yet reserved character of Mandrake, played by Daniel Gillies. Himself, along with side antagonist Tubs played by Matthias Luafutu do such an amazing job of enhancing the dread and anxiety inducing scenes that play out on screen. Gillies' character Mandrake is someone who I found to be very interesting, his unpredictability and violent nature constantly had me glued to his movements wherever he was on screen. The two main protagonists of husband and wife dynamic played by Erik Thomson and Miriama McDowell are equally as effective in their roles. I would say McDowell is the stronger of the two, delivering such emotion in her performance that it is so difficult not to feel the harrowing experience she is experiencing. I would have liked to have seen her have more screen time if I'm honest. The writing is where I feel most of the issues arise from this film. The pacing and overall direction suffer at the hands of how weak the motive appears to be for the antagonists - or should I say how minimal the involvement of the protagonists are in this pursuit for vengeance. For me, it just doesn't feel like it justified the suffering they are enduring at the hands of the villains in the story. This is something that other people may not take issue with, however for me I don't like to see lingering unanswered questions from a film when I already feel that the story direction is weak and unfulfilling with its lack of information. I think the cinematography is without doubt the strongest element of this production. It is overflowing with beautifully shot wide scoped landscapes of New Zealand during the day and once night falls, comes the contrastingly eerie undertones you would come to expect from this location at night takes over. Framing scenes perfectly through the use of strategically placed lighting makes this whole film a joy to watch, regardless of the brutality of the subject matter. Intertwining a very fitting score, by John Gibson, ultimately creates one of the most atmospheric films I have watched in some time. I think 'Coming Home in the Dark' is a film that I would recommend everyone give their time to, even if it is just to appreciate the incredible artistry on display. Be that from the outstanding cast performance or the visceral beauty that is the cinematography. Granted, this film is not going to be for everyone, but for those who do appreciate it will certainly be ranking this highly on their lists. For me, I felt this was strongly let down by the writing and I think this is in part due to this film being adapted for a short story in a book to a 1 hour 33 minute feature film. And it's for that reason alone that I can't rank it higher.



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