*This review contains spoilers*
If you can overlook the glacial pace of some of the middle episodes and unexpected but not wholly unsatisfying ending, Marti Noxon’s and Big Little Lies director Jean-Marc Vallée’s adaptation of Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s novel makes for a darkly compelling and brilliantly twisted eight-part miniseries.
Troubled crime reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams), a barely functioning alcoholic who is almost completely covered in self-harm scars, is sent back to her small Southern hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri by her kind-hearted boss Frank Curry (Miguel Sandoval) to report on the brutal murder of a young girl.
Curry’s motivation extends beyond simply getting a local’s perspective on the case, it’s his hope that making Camille spend time with her estranged family, which consists of her socialite mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson), wild teenage half-sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen) and step-dad Alan (Henry Czerny), will finally force her to confront her many personal demons.
As soon as Camille’s beaten-up car arrives at their lavish southern belle mansion, it becomes clear that the seemingly idyllic Wind Gap, with a smiling 60s style welcome to town sign and single quaint main street, isn’t a very happy place.
Beautifully haunting cinematography is used to absolutely excellent effect throughout the duration of the series to create the unshakeable and very unsettling feeling that something is truly rotten at the heart of this suburbia where everybody’s more than happy to bury horribly painful secrets and feign politeness.
Big, bright dreamily shot sequences, like those of Amma roller-skating around town, along with the townspeople’s pristine outward appearances are contrasted starkly with Camille’s upsetting flashbacks to her younger self (Sophia Lillis) lying in the dirt surrounded by a group of shirtless, leering boys and being clearly neglected by her mother.
The body of another young girl is soon discovered and a heightened sense of fear and paranoia rapidly descends over the town as Camille, with the occasional help from out-of-town detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina), attempts to start unravelling the truth.
While prioritizing character development will be boring for some, the decision to take everything much slower, for example showing the townspeople’s lies gradually unravelling to reveal their much darker desires, is a lot more effective at building a horribly sinister underlying sense of dread.
None of this would work without a fantastic set of performances and thankfully, the talented cast are all more than up for the task.
Adams is absolutely fantastic as Camille, complex and heartbreakingly sad, but never to the point where it feels over-the-top, and also quite likeable with a steely sense of determination to find the killer.
Equally excellent are Scanlan and Clarkson, with the latter slowly and cleverly evolving over the course of series from a cold, distant figure to a highly manipulative, cruel and downright terrifying Munchausen By Proxy sufferer.
It’s this revelation, that middle child Marion was poisoned by Adora who’s now doing the same to Amma, which triggers a wonderfully creepy and claustrophobic sequence in which Clarkson really impresses, gleefully alternating between force-feeding Camille poison and lovingly comforting her like a sick child.
Despite Adora being arrested and convicted for both murders, the show's closing minutes present us with one last brilliantly morbid twist when Camille notices that some of the furniture in Amma's dollhouse is made from the dead girl's teeth, confirming her to actually be the killer.
Although it doesn’t entirely make sense, Willis stressed numerous times you'd need to be incredibly strong to pull out a tooth, it's definitely in keeping with the show's twisted tone and theme of attempting to bury your chilling secrets beneath a happy, mundane existence.
You can stream the entirety of Sharp Objects on Sky now.