People will tell you that this or that deplorable book or show or song requires depraved content in order to explore “mature” themes.
So here’s a tip: Watch the film Room. (Wikipedia has the full plot synopsis here.) It’s the story of a teenage girl whose kidnapper keeps her in a storage shed for years, and visits nightly to rape her. We meet her as the twenty-something mother of a five-year-old son, still locked in that shed and now raising her child in captivity. Movie topics don’t get a whole lot darker than that.
Do not watch this film when your little kids are home. (Do watch it with your teenagers – parental guidance required).
But guess what? In the hands of a good director, you can swim deep into some very nasty, brutal crimes without anything of the gratuitous voyeurism that so many lazy producers lather on like cupcake frosting. You can have your (plot-essential) rape scene without actually having to watch someone get raped. You can show terror, desperation, and suicidal depression without morbid violence. The very light touch on the use of foul language is a textbook case study in when and how such words might properly belong in a script.
In addition to being a study in How to Handle Extremely Dark Topics, the film is also, as any good film should be, about the true, beautiful and good. If you are a writer, you should watch this film for its genius use of the breadth of the English language. For any human, the very last lines of the film are stunning in their ability to sum up one of the greatest struggles of the human heart with piercing simplicity.
FYI – It was streaming for free on Amazon Prime when we watched it.
Film poster via Wikimedia, used per fair use guidelines.
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