One of my favorite films to come out of Nightstream is the post-apocalyptic Darkness. Directed by Emanuela Rossi, the film centers on Stella (Denise Tantucci), a 17-year-old girl who lives with her father and her sisters in a house cut off from the world—a world in ruin after some sort of horrific apocalypse. They live sealed off, all doors and windows covered, taking care never to go outside, with the exception of their father (Valerio Binasco), who suits up every morning in protective gear to go find food.

The girls entertain themselves throughout the day, dressing up, playing games, doing what they can to remain sane. They act out memories from when they were younger, when their mother was still with them. Their father discourages such behavior, telling them that clinging to a long gone past is a waste of time. They must focus on what they have now, rather than wishing for something that can never again be.

Under their father’s care, the girls live in a state of tight control. When he is home, they sit quietly, waiting to be spoken to, obeying his every command. When asked why they can’t go outside with him, he replies that women are too weak to withstand the horrors of the ruined world.

When she begins to notice her father making advances toward her younger sister, Luce (Gaia Bocci), Stella brings to question not only the safety of the siblings, but her father’s entire reasoning for keeping them locked in the house. As her curiosity grows, she begins to learn that not all is as it seems and that the world beyond is much different than she has been taught to believe.

Rossi’s film is a complex examination of fear, paranoia, and control. The apocalyptic setting allows for an interesting background in which to examine the cycle of abuse and the way in which we struggle to break free.

Stella, in particular, undergoes a momentous journey over the course of the film. As she begins to question the life that has been laid out for her, she comes more and more into her own womanhood. Her exploration and her questioning lead her to begin to reclaim the power that her father’s rules have taken from her over time.

The cast is incredible, each actor giving a powerful performance in their own right, and each character offering a glimpse at the different ways they have been affected by their own circumstances. Stella is coming of age and is questioning everything around her. She begins to see the truth in the world and is following it. Luce is just hitting puberty, and though she fears her father, she still clings tight to his rule and to the safety that his structure has provided. It is strict and unforgiving, but it is familiar, and is what she knows. The youngest sibling, Aria (Olimpia Tosatto), is mute and lives in the only world that she has ever known. She has no memory of a life before this one.

Darkness is an incredible examination of a cycle of abuse, wrapped in a beautiful and compelling story. It’s hard to tear yourself away from these characters, and the places their journey takes them will not soon be forgotten.

Movie Score: 5/5

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