Damian Harris spent the better part of two decades researching child abductions for Gardens of the Night, a fictional saga about one young girl's ordeal after being snatched away from her parents at the tender age of 8. That dedication to getting the details right, however, doesn't save his film from missteps typical to stories about such topics, as the tendency to exploit lurid material for dramatic purposes is something he can't avoid. Still, as a serious-minded attempt to trace both the literal and psychological means by which abductors carry out their plots, Harris' tale is not wholly without merit and, with regards to its portrait of kid-snatcher Alex (Tom Arnold), occasionally flirts with complexity. Generally refusing to simplify characters or scenarios, his film strives to burrow into the mind of captured 8-year-old Leslie (Ryan Simpkins), who - in an extended flashback instigated by 17-year-old Leslie's (Gillian Jacobs) lies about her family history to a teen center counselor (John Malkovich) - is tricked into trusting and traveling with Alex and his skuzzy teen cohort Frank (Transamerica's Kevin Zegers) while on her way to school one average, sunny day.
categories Cinematical