Gardens of the Night - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Gardens of the Night Reviews

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½ June 30, 2017
One of the most disturbing films I've ever seen.


You will not be redeemed. You will not find catharsis. You may very well feel deeply depressed at the depravity of some human beings.

We can begin with Alex (Tom Arnold) who "loves" little Leslie (Ryan Simpkins) so deeply and tenderly that he deprives her of her childhood to satisfy his lust. And then there's his bud Frank (Kevin Zegers) who helps Alex drug the children.

Some years pass. Leslie (Gillian Jacobs) is now 17. She is living in San Diego sleeping under a life guard station or under the freeway with Donnie (as a child played by Jermaine 'Scooter' Smith and then by Evan Ross) the other child abducted by Alex and Frank. The viewer can guess that Leslie and Donnie were just dumped somewhere when Alex and Frank got tired of them. (And we can guess that Alex and Frank found other children to enslave and molest.) Leslie smokes, does drugs, prostitutes herself, and hangs out with lowlifes on the streets. One lowlife (I forget his name) wants Leslie to entice a 12-year-old girl into prostitution. She is told that he will give her to only the "best people" including a judge. Apparently he has a ring of enslaved girls that he shops around to the best people.

At this point the viewer is understandably waiting for Leslie and Donnie to find themselves, to break free of the hopeless life on the street. Enter Michael at the homeless shelter (John Malkovich in what is little more than a cameo). He discovers an old flyer with little Leslie's photo and the plea from her loving and distraught parents for the return of their missing daughter. Prior to seeing this Leslie believed from years of being brainwashed by Alex that her parents didn't love her and were glad to be rid of her. Michael says, "It's time for you to go home, Leslie."

And so Leslie does. And what happens is in some ways the most disturbing part of the movie.

The cast is outstanding. I was particularly impressed with Ryan Simpkins, Gilliam Jacobs and Evan Ross. Damian Harris, who wrote and directed, gives us a view of humanity that is unrelentingly debased. There is no doubt about his skill and dark vision. I just hope that next time out he does something positive.

--Dennis Littrell, author of the movie review book, "Cut to the Chaise Lounge, or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote"
½ June 9, 2015
I'm sooo mad about the ending! It wasn't enough closure for me
August 11, 2014
Sensitive but uncaring, Gardens of the Night shows no effort to push itself to be what it truly wants to be, but the final act is enough to leave you satisfied.
½ July 26, 2014
The film is important enough as a powerfully devastating look into the depravity of pedophiles who kidnap and never release their innocent victims, ruining their lives forever simply to gratify their twisted actions that it mitigates any of the movie critics that cite its shortcomings as a film. Watch it and urge others to watch it, particularly if you have any suspicion that someone you know may be one.
April 7, 2014
Needed a better wow moment.
Super Reviewer
March 29, 2014
The film certainly means well to shine a spotlight on a very real and heartbreaking issue, but this is really a glorified Lifetime movie disguised as an independent film. Damian Harris claims to have spent 10 years doing research for this film. I'm certainly not doubting that at all, but what I am saying is that he didn't find a way to successfully implement his research into an emotionally engaging story. That might sound a little cold, but it's the truth. I found the film to be quite the chore that just dragged and dragged and dragged. It doesn't help that the film is really heavily dramatized in order to manipulate your emotions. The story would be heartbreaking enough without the film CLEARLY manipulating you in order to get the response they desire. That's what gives it that TV film quality. There's some good parts to the film, like Leslie's and Donnie's relationship and how they've grown to depend on each other in the face of horrific consequences. And how that sort of develops into an "attraction" when they're both much older. The problem is that, while Gillian Jacobs and Evan Ross are both individually good, though Evan has one really bad scene, they don't really have much chemistry with each other and the film is just TRYING so hard to tell this story of these two, who wouldn't have even met if it wasn't due to the fact they were both kidnapped as children and forced into prostitution, and how they're meant to be together forever to look after each other. It was a good idea but the chemistry between Evan and Gillian was definitely lacking and that really hurt what the film was trying to do. Good idea, but the leads just don't have any chemistry. It's clear they were just paid to pretend to like each other and I mean they ARE actors, so that's what they're hired to do. But in many movies, the chemistry between the leads is such that it doesn't FEEL like they're pretending, it just feels like an extension of their real-life relationship, or even friendship. Movies like This Is The End work because it's clear that everyone involved in the cast is friends with each other and that translates on-screen and it makes the film that much more fun. Not that this film was ever meant to be fun, but the point is that you can see through the facade, you can tell that Evan and Gillian probably, while maybe they didn't dislike each other, had very little in common with each other and didn't hang out together unless it was strictly for the benefits of the film. You can see through it immediately and that's a very big problem with the film. On top of the fact that it tells you the TV movie version of the story rather than the real one. Like I said, there's some good moments and the acting is more than solid, but the film's story and its pacing really leaves a lot to be desired. I say this a lot, but the worst thing a film can be is a chore to sit through, because if I had stopped the film halfway through, it wouldn't have bothered me if I never finished it. That's a problem, so the film, in my view, missed the mark on its subject matter by a monumental margin. Wouldn't really recommend this film at all.
½ December 4, 2013
The little girl in this omg...
November 18, 2013
this movie made me cry
Super Reviewer
½ June 4, 2013
Gardens of the Night follows an 8 year old upper-middle class girl, Leslie (Ryan Simpkin), who was abducted by two Pedophiles, Alex (Tom Arnold) and Frank (Kevin Zegers). After being coerced to getting in Alex's car, her whole childhood life turned out to be a living hell, alongside with Donnie (Jermaine Scooter Smith), who believed that his parents sold him to Alex for drugs. They create a connection with each other later on in the movie and promised to be together forever. Now that they are teenagers (played by Gillian Jacobs and Evan Ross), they moved to San Diego together, homeless, leading to drugs and prostitution.

Based on what was shown here, Gardens of the Night is a depressing but good movie that will make parents wanting to take care of their kids and look out for them. I didn't want to see it on Netflix at first because the summary felt depressing to read, and I didn't want to waste my time feeling sad. I'm an opened person, so I was like "what the heck. I should give it a chance." Glad I did. There are many kids out there who goes through messed up situation like this. It wasn't a perfect film, but this will hopefuly get prevent kids from not having a messed up life like those two main characters. No matter if it's a wealthy or a dangerous area, there are sickos everywhere we go.

The storyline started out ambiguously. It showed how she was abducted from her parents, and it showed Alex and Frank's motives. Some of the scenes are uncomfortable to look at because they can make you feel tense and self-conscious, but that depends on what type of person you are. Some of the scenes also find yourself feeling a little bit happy, whenever Leslie and Donnie interact with each other. You can really tell they have a strong bond together, especially when Donnie is attracted to her.

The problem about this movie was that it left out a few questions to be answered, such as the part where it cuts from the part where Leslie and Donnie were sleeping as kids to where they slept at a beach in San Diego as teenagers. I was puzzled by that because I didn't know what happened before they moved in San Diego without having a house of their own, or what happened to Alex and Frank. It really messed up the movie for me. The ending was another problem I had as well. It left me open for more to come, and I didn't know what to feel. Either happy or sad. Maybe it was trying to lead itself somewhere, but it wanted us to figure out ourselves on what happened next after it cuts to the credits.

The cast, although there are no stand outs, did a good job here. Tom Arnold departed from his usual comedic roles and did something new for a change. He played his character pretty well. Kevin Zegers came a long way throughout his career, and I didn't expect him to do a role like this. He wasn't too bad here, and I'm wondering why he hasn't been in any blockbuster movies, lately. It doesn't matter, anyway. Evan Ross and Gillian Jacobs had a good chemistry together on screen. They played their part pretty well. Other cast delivered a decent performance that will be admired by everyone in the future.

Gardens of the Night is an independent film that is a refreshment from the junk Hollywood is putting out. There are mixed reactions by critics and audiences alike, but I thought it was well-made but not perfect. So it's a both direction for me. I enjoyed it, but there are few things that were missing. It would have been a perfect movie if they did a little better with the story. This deals with Abduction and making the right decisions for yourself, and I hope people will learn something from this movie. It's not flawless, but it's worth looking at, if you're a parent or someone who loves kids so much, that you would do anything to prevent them from taking the wrong path.
February 17, 2013
Disturbing. I would not let my child act in this movie. Hard to watch, and worth it to watch, but I wonder how this affects a young child actor or actress. Can't be good.
January 27, 2013
I was astonished to see Tom Arnold in a role like this. Hes always in slapstick comedies but I was impressed by his dramatic acting abilites in this film.
January 24, 2013
Very sad and tough to watch.
January 20, 2013
A remarkably refreshing piece of storytelling. The performances are fearless and the direction is flawless. Truly moving and beautiful.
January 4, 2013
Omg this movie makes me cry its so sad how these young kids getting abducted
½ September 18, 2012
I usually do not let myself get too affected by the monstrosities that occur in films but this movie really hit a nerve. I cried more in this movie than any other. It really hurt to see hen Leslie followed in such a similar path to "uncle" jack by bringing such a young girl into the world of prostitution. She even used the same "caterpillar into a butterfly" analogy. I don't know if I could ever watch this movie again but it was beautifully crafted.
½ September 1, 2012
If it wasn't for John Malkovich and Gillian Jacobs, I wouldn't watch this.
½ May 27, 2012
This is a very touching movie. Parents will get chills in the first 5 minutes. This is a very realistic tale of the underground child abuse ring.
May 13, 2012
I probably would have gone with an "OK+" (3.5 Stars ) if it had an ending with a resolution. I'm not fond of open ended movies.
May 13, 2012
Incredible film. Disturbing, touching and profound movie. The little girl who plays young Leslie was awesome.
April 15, 2012
A heartwrenching, eye opening film that is gratefully acted, directed, and performed with good emotional drama to show the horrors of the lives stolen childhood's.
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