Gardens of the Night Reviews
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"
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.