When crime reporter Camille Peaker (Amy Adams) returns to her tiny hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, her troubled past quickly starts rearing its ugly head as she investigates the grisly murders of local teen girls. Etherealness and darkness meld onscreen in Montreal-born director Jean-Marc Vallée’s light-flooded world built of equal parts beauty and decay. In a story fuelled by the ripping open of old wounds, Camille’s long, plain black clothes hide years of self-inflicted scars, and her looks clash with her mother Adora’s (Patricia Clarkson) flowy floral dresses, fit for a proper Southern Belle. Both share pain from the death of the family’s former youngest daughter, Marian (Lulu Wilson), whose memory is preserved like a porcelain figurine from the doll house that sits in the parlour.
True crime meets southern gothic in this twisted tale where every suspect in the murder case is an acquaintance or more, and everyone in town knows everyone else’s business. As Camille digs deeper into the case, her alcoholism follows suit, as do complications with her relationship with her mother, a pillar of propriety in a community where appearances are the most valuable currency.
As the adult women face off, Camille’s new youngest half-sister, Amma (Eliza Scanlen), shows that she too is capable of hiding a few skeletons in her closet.