A flu-like pandemic has devastated the adult population of the world. The final stages resulted in psychosis. It moved too quickly for world health organizations to deal with it leaving the world mostly populated by the young. Not only do they have to scavenge to survive but they are haunted of the painful final memories of their families’ madness.
Evie and Fran are sisters trying to endure the new world. They read to each other as a means of entertainment and as a remembrance of normalcy. They wander from abandoned and mouldy house to house and town to town all the while looking for food and clothes and trying to avoid people. They try to maintain some sense of normalcy by regularly reading a story from their childhood to each other–E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children.
Unfortunately they run into other young people who are also trying to make their way after the devastation. They take a chance to aid another and are drawn into an odd hierarchy of sorts that is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. There is no good or bad among these children. The children do horrible things to each other yet it does not seem to extend beyond simple childhood malice. They are merely trying to survive and grow up at the same time.
This movie relies on flashbacks. A lot of flashbacks, many of them are used to show the pandemic backstory and better develop the myriad of characters introduced. It was odd seeing a flashback of something that actually showed scant minutes prior but helped to connect the scenes. The pacing is top notch and the story unfolds in a way that keeps the viewer interested not only in the plot but the characters as well.
The camera work is excellent helping to increase the claustrophobic feel of these children trapped in what is now a much smaller world. The frenetic editing emphasizes the tension the characters feel and the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. The set design and locations are very effective creating the necessary apocalyptic feel. The acting is capable though the younger sister is a bit overwrought though not enough to pull the viewer out of the story.
CHILDREN OF A DARKER DAWN is grim and haunting. Frightening real world potentiality combines with lost innocence and horrifying decisions to leave the viewer numb and ill at ease. It is a well told story that does not overly rely on special effects in order to create a harrowing post-apocalyptic landscape.