Stars: Will Sharpe, Tiani Ghosh, Joe Thomas, Sophia Di Martino, Raph Shirley, Chris Langham, Sharon D. Clarke, Ewan Bailey, Helen Cripps, Jamie Demetriou, Simon Bird | Written by Tiani Ghosh, Will Sharpe | Directed by Tom Kingsley, Will Sharpe
Talk about a movie where you just don’t know where to start! With The Darkest Universe, co-directors Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe have crafted what I can only describe as my favorite, completely surreal, yet right down to earth, drama I have watched in 2016… Wait, no, in years.
As I have said previously, I am on a real Indie “hidden gem” kick right now and I was asked to review this movie suspecting that it would be right up my street. And it is. The Darkest Universe is an absolute gem of a movie for more reasons than I can explain, but I will try.
Co-director and co-writer Will Sharpe plays highly strung and highly stressed Zac Pratt. We join Zac on the verge of a complete breakdown following the disappearance of his sister and break-up with his girlfriend. We follow him on somewhat of a journey of self-realization and self discovery. Zac starts up a fledging blog making video diaries of his search for his sister due to his frustration with the police coming up short. During this time we have a wonderfully interwoven series of flashbacks showing us what happened and giving us breadcrumbs of information.
A movie like this can live or die in the intricacies of it’s tightly woven plot and this one flourishes because there is not one unnecessary moment on screen, it all matters. We find that Zac’s relationship with his girlfriend Eva (Sophia Di Martino, Channel 4′s Flowers and Casualty) is strained and fragile which leads to a wonderfully awkward marriage proposal failure. While Zac would like us to believe from the get go that his sister Alice (Tiani Ghosh co-writer and first time actor – though you couldn’t tell) is unhinged we slowly find she is probably the sanest person in his life, as she meets misfit wanderer Toby (Joe Thomas, Inbetweeners and Fresh Meat). The relationship between Toby and Alice is almost as captivating as Sharpe’s all round performance and is just such a delicious watch.
Okay, lets just get to it Will Sharpe in this movie is bloody outstanding. Think about Ezra Miller in We Need to Talk about Kevin, that is how intense this role can get, but he can also switch-up and be this charming, at times funny, and sincere chap. There were moments I just didn’t know where it was going to go and his performance was layered as such. Of course the script helps as well because it’s straight and to the point. At 90 minutes long the movie gets in, messes with your head a bit and gets out. Also – no spoilers from me – but this movie is never what you think it is and the ending is just a thing of beauty.
I take nothing away from anyone else in this movie but for her first time acting Tiani Ghosh is well above par and her chemistry with Joe Thomas is undeniable. On that note, Joe Thomas of Inbetweeners fame was a surprising delight for me in this. A cheeky little cameo from fellow Inbetweener Simon Bird was received well and rounding off our cream of Brit comedy crop Chris Langham (The Thick of It) does not disappoint as Toby’s dad.
I really don’t think you will disappointed if you give The Darkest Universe a shot, it has all the ingredients of what I would call an indie classic, people will find this movie and talk about it for years to come. Sharpe and Kingsley are a directing duo you have got to keep an eye on. I myself am angry I never saw there first effort (did I mention this is just there second directorial outing?) Black Pond but I will rectify that. They are miles ahead of their ages and show a level of film-making maturity that most directors will struggle to get to.
Effortless and beautiful I am so glad I will be ending 2016 with The Darkest Universe.