Sharp Objects is a murder-mystery that burrows deeper into the mind of its protagonist than it does into the toxic story it tells, and that’s a damn good thing.
For many reasons that later become clear, Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) left her strange hometown of Wind Gap long ago. But now her work as a journalist sends her home when two teenage girls are found brutally murdered. This means, once again, encountering the strange inhabitants of a town she once knew and has now outgrown, including her cold and eerie mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson).
Sharp Objects provides so many of the common murder mystery tropes and yet defies any expectations placed upon it. Despite its setting and set-up, the mystery moves rather slowly. Clues that advance intrigue and tension are infrequent and the suspicions remain largely static across most of the eight episodes.
But presenting a gripping plot is not the show’s primary objective. In Camille, the show finds a vessel to explore complicated themes of trauma and mental illness. Far more time is dedicated to Camille’s distressing past and the wounds such events left than on the whodunnit. And the slow burn of Sharp Objects is met with proportionately powerful payoffs towards the end of the run. The credits of the final episode are followed by a very short scene that startles and horrifies; a testament to the mark this show leaves on viewers.
The editing of Sharp Objects continuously, and sometimes confusingly, thrusts the frame between past and present. Such careful construction of scenes lends itself superbly to presenting the protagonist’s experiences with trauma and the scars of memory. The rich colours not only convey the hot Missouri summer, but also the choking sense of claustrophobia Camille feels.
Amy Adams’ performance as Camille is a potent mix of determination and vulnerability, but she is not alone in being an extraordinary on-screen talent. Patricia Clarkson and Eliza Scanlen are committed and convincing as a cutting mother-daughter pair. The fragile and intense dynamic between their three characters is a central pillar of Sharp Objects. Screenwriter Gillian Flynn, who also authored the book of the same name upon which Sharp Objects is based, has proven to be a talented force both in literature and in Hollywood.
Within minutes of the show fading to black, it was clear that Sharp Objects will be an awards favourite for the year ahead. HBO has once again proven it is the home for the type of shows you can’t see anywhere else.