The title character of Darcy is a fifteen-year-old girl, played with startling insight by Gus Birney, working during summer break in her family’s seedy motel on the edge of an unseen town. Darcy’s parents are keeping the motel’s head above water with an agreement with the Department of Corrections to take in recently discharged inmates.
The idealistic Darcy sees the motel’s residents only as people, not realizing the danger she might be in. Her adolescent feelings are tapped a little deeper when the older, handsome and brooding Luke (Jonathan Tchaikovsky) checks into the motel.
Sexual awakening is a sine qua non in this type of story. In this regard Darcy is very much advantaged by the performance of its appealing young lead. Ms. Birney, a regular on the Stephen King TV series The Mist, adroitly conveys innocence and arousal with equal aplomb – no mean feat in a media marketplace that routinely takes sexual encounters for granted. The audience clues in quickly that Luke has issues of his own, and Tchaikovsky makes us believe his character’s inner conflicts. We may even have some sympathy as Darcy’s aggressiveness gradually increases. Much like a toddler with a handgun, Darcy has little appreciation of the consequences that might be awaiting an older man who responds to her advances. Gus Birney seems to get all this, though, and her performance is a star-making revelation. Nuanced, layered, textured and always believable, this is dramatic work that ought to be beyond an actress this young.
What is genuinely unusual about Darcy is its ability to create a faux normalcy in this environment which is anything but normal, and which even common sense tells us should be threatening. The film was shot in upstate New York’s Greene County, and co-directors John Russell Cring and Heidi Philipsen milk the pastoral landscape for all it’s worth.
And the sun-dappled countryside in glorious summer belies the danger of being surrounded by ex-cons whose commitment to rehabilitation is an open question. The audience is invited to worry about the motel’s youngest guest, “Peanut” (Lawton Denis), though not insistently so, though another guest, “Pete the Creep” (Ray Faiola), is a former child molester struggling with the darkest of demons.
Darcy has a more cohesive feel than many movies with co-directors, though its script glides perhaps too easily between its own opposite poles. That may be the perogative of an indie; eschewing Hollywood storytelling conventions. Darcy juxtaposes darkness with sunlight, corruption with innocence, and does it in a way that’s perhaps intentionally jarring. The climax is shattering. What Darcy seems ultimately to say is less that evil threatens the the innocence of childhood, than that darkness itself can somehow start to seem surprisingly normal.