SHARP OBJECTS: A place where home comforts do not exist

The town of Wind Gap, Missouri is the essential setting for HBO’s psychological thriller Sharp Objects. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, this is where the elusive murder mystery drama takes place. The story follows Camille Preaker (Amy Adams), a journalist and the eldest of three daughters returning home to Wind Gap to report on the murders of two young girls native to the town, that appear to be linked. The events that unfold see Camille trying to grasp with her flickering traumatic past experiences. Camille is in a position where she is revisiting the reality of what that bounds her family together, all the while trying to escape it. Sharp Objects, as told from Camille’s perspective, is about the strain of trying to cope with trauma, yet the troubled nature of attempting to lay it to rest as it resurfaces, especially when in the face of danger. Sharp Objects encourages its viewers to see the complexity of the human mind, and encourages its viewers to scrutinise characters’ relationships.

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Camille (Adams), and Adora (Clarkson)

Wind Gap is many things. The tone can be dark, drained and lifeless, and this is a result of which side of the town Camille is investigating and this reflects on to the status citizens have in the town. Wind Gap has a lush green wood, a wood that is also haunting because of what Camille has experienced in there. But, above all in Wind Gap, there is a community, and characters with certain ties and loyalties to one-another. These ties have proven that suspicion is not limited. However, the staple of Wind Gap remains to be the Preaker/Crenlin residence, an old mansion passed down through the family of Adora Crenlin (Patricia Clarkson), Camille’s mother. Although the residence has appeared on the cover of a home magazine, appearing to be glamourized and an idyllic family goal for the magazine’s readers, there is more sinister truths and events that have happened in this house. And, they continue to happen in the home of Camille, Adora, Amma Crenlin (Eliza Scanlen), Alan Crenlin (Henry Czerny) and Camille’s sister Marian, who passed away due to reasons that are later unearthed in the show due to the investigation into the murders in Wind Gap.

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Inside the family home

At this point, any chance of being greeted with traditional southern hospitality and charm in the town is thrown out of the window. Wind Gap is the essential playground for the murder mystery that the story of Sharp Objects needs, and utilises to become more than a simple murder mystery narrative. All the details are crafted delicately and precisely, and everything is set up to eventually collapse because of Camille’s return. Once more, this applies for the family home. Camille sees what is below the surface when it comes to Wind Gap, for after all, her profession is in journalism. In Sharp Objects Camille is seen to disregard any ethical standards of behaviour when it comes to reporting her story as she is a character that has little to lose, and a lot to confront and deal with from inside the hidden sphere of her home. Home is no escape for Camille. Home is a place that she wishes to detach herself from, but is bound to, and through the intensely edited hallucinations and flashbacks it is made clear why the house is a haunting place for her to confront and relive. Simultaneously, her interactions with Adora are cold, short and tense. Amma tries to get beneath Camille’s skin whilst Alan disregards her completely. The real violence for Camille is the relationships she has with her family members, and the violence of the murders is secondary to the narrative Sharp Objects truly pushes to its viewers.

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Adora, Amma (Scanlen) and Camille

The characters in Sharp Objects ways of coping take form in either imploding or exploding states. Camille is one half of this form, as she implodes to deal with what she has strongly endured in her life at the hand of her inherited traumas from her mother, Adora. On top of vivid flashbacks and revisited discomforts, Camille tackles with not hurting herself once more, and is at stages heavily seeking comfort in alcohol, even drinking under the influence in return at dangerous speeds. Amma, on the other hand, becomes the force of exploding. Compared to her sister, Amma is calculating, malicious and cunning in her deceit and tactful behaviour. Often she is taking out her resentments directly on to others, all the while retaining an image of a perfect daughter. Amma is another struggle that Camille deals with. Amma often challenges Camille, taunting her in a sadistic manner, leaving Camille to play with Amma at times as Camille can be reminded of the time she spent playing with Marian. For Camille, she knows why Amma behaves the way she does due to the shared suffering and silent abuse they have encountered within the home. Both sisters deal with the trauma in different ways, ultimately for it to only become a repeated cycle. Their biggest challenge had always been not becoming a reflection of their mother, and seeing their mother in each other, and not staying complicit and silent in the face of abuse, like Alan. Adora is best said to be the sharp object that digs into the characters of the show, but Alan had the power to prevent many of the events that occur within their home.

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Traditionally, viewers can be seen to watch murder mysteries because there is satisfaction to be gained from seeing the start of a case up until the final moment. The most important part in stories like Sharp Objects is learning who was the killer, and why did they do it? Sharp Objects leaves more open to its viewers than simple closure. Instead, its viewers have had to learn to decode the inherited trauma in its main characters to see what lays beneath Wind Gap’s surface. Sharp Objects is more rewarding in the way that the violence and the reveal of the murders are saved until the closing point. Although it may seem initially disappointing, a much bigger interpersonal array of relationships is made to be the true element and bridge of the story, allowing room for the interpretation of questions and motives.

Sharp Objects is a heavily layered piece of television, with a very subtle slow burn. This burn eventually becomes a flame, and every second spent watching is not one wasted. Adams, Clarkson and Scanlen give striking performances and are truly invested in their characters.

 

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