You know the moment you go watch a film based on a book series you absolutely despise? I’ll be honest: a part of me goes into a small amount of denial. “It can’t be quite as bad as the books.” “Maybe they’ll improve from the source material and make it a decent piece?” It didn’t take long to be proven otherwise. It’s not too surprising: if you didn’t enjoy 50 Shades of Grey then you’re unlikely to enjoy 50 Shades Darker and I would wager that 50 Shades Freed will get the same reaction. It’s a shame that so much money has been devoted to this piece of work.
50 Shades Darker is a duller shade in contrast to its predecessor. An uneven flow in narrative with questionable editing and unnecessary close-ups, it’s a film that feels more like a first draft of a student film. The sexual parts of the film feels wedged in for the sake of it and will fail to titillate most audience members.
The most problematic aspect of not only 50 Shades Darker but the entire 50 Shades saga is its representation of not only the romantic relationship between Ana and Christian but BDSM as a whole. This film seemed very intent, through Christian’s dreams and clumsy exposition from other characters, to justify Christian’s behaviour. His brush with trauma as a child clearly made him the sexual sadist he is and the way the film portrays it, the viewer is meant to feel bad for him the same way Ana does. This is not only insulting to the BDSM community but also a total insult to survivors of abuse. Being told “Oh but poor him” is an awful message to send out there. Many people endure terrible childhoods but that will never justify being an unrepentantly abusive person. Christian stalks Ana relentlessly using private detectives, when she asks for space and time to think he bombards and pressures her into doing what he wants to, puts money into her account without her consent, buys the company he know she works for despite her wishes to have something independent, gets needlessly jealous over her spending time with her male boss and essentially cuts her off from anyone that isn’t linked positively to himself. Sure, he promises to give up his BDSM ways in favour of a vanilla relationship with Ana but that barely lasts half the movie and she ends up being suddenly into it after all.
“But you don’t get Christian,” one may say in an indignant manner, “his trauma still affects him. He has dreams for God’s sake.” Fifty Shades Darker didn’t even get the reason for his behaviour done properly. He gets a bit shy about Ana touching him in a certain way which is resolved super quickly and he has flashbacks that he recovers from almost instantly, the last one ending so quickly he was able to casually propose to Ana again. Coming from someone who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, one doesn’t just recover instantly from a flashback. Recovery times vary but there’s a good frame of time before anyone is okay and even then it’s a gradual process. This pathetic excuse of a representation very clearly demonstrates how little the film makers and the writing team (i.e. E L James) cares about representing actual trauma. It feeds into a much bigger issue with the whole story – there’s very little knowledge into of issues it tries to show on screen. Its lack of decent writing or narrative flow makes those issues akin to a gaping, pus-infected wound. One wants to look away but can’t through sheer visceral disgust.
“You’re being so unfair Jen,” you may be thinking, “At least it was made well!” It’s true that the film making techniques aren’t completely terrible but that’s not to say it gets a pass. The cinematography doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself with random extreme close-ups in places where it makes little sense to use that shot. Transitions between scenes are almost non-existent – a scene finishes and the next thing the viewer knows they’re somewhere totally different. It emphasises the fact the film itself completely lacks any kind of flow in narrative or visually. What doesn’t help matters is a soundtrack about as romantic as a sleazy downtown club that drowns in darkness and terrorises your earbuds that’s far more likely to give you a migraine rather than an orgasm. Call me picky but aren’t erotic films supposed to be somewhat sexually appealing?
Cinema and literature fans everywhere: do not go to see 50 Shades Darker whether you’re a fan of the franchise or you want to watch the train wreck. I urge you to instead donate what you would’ve spent on a cinema ticket and snacks to Refuge. They’re a great charity that provides refuges for domestic abuse survivors of any gender, community outreach, independent advocacy, lobby parliament for better rights for survivors, do research on the matter and do public campaigns for the cause. In England and Wales, two women die every week at the hands of a current or former partner. Let’s tackle problematic culture by not only calling it out but supporting the charities helping the people affected by it.
Fifty Shades Darker is out in cinemas now.
If you wish to find out more about Refuge or donate online, please go here!