Since making “American Psycho,” which IndieWire recently named one of the 100 Best Movies Directed by Women, Mary Harron has been relatively elusive to indie film audiences. After making her feature debut with the sadly under-appreciated “I Shot Andy Warhol,” Harron made fewer movies but found success directing a robust slate of prestige television, most recently on Sarah Polley and Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace.” With “Charlie Says,” Harron returns to feature films for the first time since 2011 with a decidedly “American Psycho”-like tale, re-teaming with her screenwriter on that project, the great Guinevere Turner.
The official “Charlie Says” synopsis reads: “Years after the shocking murders that made the name Charles Manson synonymous with pure evil, the three women who killed for him — Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon), and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón) — remain under the spell of the infamous cult leader (Matt Smith). Confined to an isolated cellblock in a California penitentiary, the trio seem destined to live out the rest of their lives under the delusion that their crimes were part of a cosmic plan — until empathetic graduate student Karlene Faith (Merritt Wever) is enlisted to rehabilitate them. Convinced the prisoners are not the inhuman monsters the world believes them to be, Karlene begins the arduous process of breaking down the psychological barriers erected by Manson. But are the women ready to confront the horror of what they did?”
The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2018. In his review out of the festival, IndieWire critic Michael Nordine wrote that the film “succeeds in demystifying the man with a pentagram carved into his skull: He may be society’s go-to conception of evil, but he was also a drugged-out racist who wrote forgettable songs that even his acolytes probably didn’t enjoy as much as they were letting on.”
“Charlie Says” is scheduled to be released by IFC Films on May 10, 2019. Check out the trailer below.