AS ITS TITLE SUGGESTS, In Darkness is plunged in blackness for much of its nearly two-and-a-half hours. Specifically, in the mucky, poopy, rat-infested sewers of Lvov, above which is a city choking on the last couple years of World War II. Much like Schindler's List and the Holocaust genre at large, Agnieszka Holland's Holocaust drama focuses on a specific story of heroism and survival. A little overly long in its drive to distinctively nuance itself, it's a bracing and powerful but hardly revelatory endeavor.
The aptly cast Robert Wieckiewicz plays the rough and sturdy Socha, who works in the sewers and pursues petty thievery on the side. Around him, Nazi officers have turned the city into a bloody, humiliating circle of hell, making Darkness' first chapter one of its hardest to watch. Things get a lot worse before they get better though, and Socha gradually finds himself protecting "his Jews"—a small group of men, women, and children he feeds and protects, hiding them in the rank sewer labyrinth only he can navigate. Life for these people underground is presented in faithful detail, down to the childbirth, masturbation, and lice-picking details.
Holland is highly attuned to portraying the complexity of her characters' motives, almost to a fault. Still, the broad strokes of the film, grim and affecting as they may be, fit easily into well-trod safety.