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  • Loosely based on the 1991 University of Iowa shooting incident, Dark Matter tells a heart-wrenching story of a brilliant mind lost in translation.

    Liu Xing (also means Falling Star in Chinese), a young student with humble background, became the elite a few selected to pursue his dreams in America. Shouldering high hopes of folks back home, the naive dreamer works diligently towards 2 goals in life: a Nobel Prize and a blond wife. When his bright future is blocked by the jealous professor, his rosy dreams crushed by cultural clash, and most damaging of all - his pride and dignity eradicated under harsh reality, our protagonist turned into a cruel monster.

    The film is skillfully shot, well acted, and thoroughly entertaining with many bitter-sweet humors depicting the tough living conditions of poor Chinese studying in America during late 80's. Meryl Streep is excellent as usual. Liu Ye, one of the best young actors in China today, played the protagonist with powerful emotions that will bring the gentle hearted viewers to tears.

    If you are looking for authoritative explanations to the Lu Gang incident or any of the recent school shootings, you will likely be disappointed. According to the director, this is a story based on his own personal experience, aimed to bring awareness to the dark side of the academics circle as well as the overlooked lives of foreign students in America. I feel the script could to be strengthened by more psychological exploration into the protagonist character, so the ending would not appear so abrupt. Yet overall this is a beautiful and touching movie. Not to be missed by people with similar experiences or those who are curious about the subject matter.
  • DARK MATTER is a film that will polarize audiences: for those who seek understanding of the clashes between science and 'religion' and the matrix from which tragedy grows the film will appeal, and for the audiences who demand tidy stories with happy resolutions the film will not please. Apparently 'based on true events', this story has many layers that invite discussion and reveals some facts about the American Academia that many would rather not know.

    Liu Xing (Ye Liu) comes from a poor family in Beijing, but rises to hopeful heights due to his exceptional scientific intelligence and is invited to a prestigious university to study with Cosmology professor Jacob Reiser (Aidan Quinn), the author of the Reiser String Theory - the entire universe is tied into a compact single ball of cosmic wax. Liu Xing encounters initial success not only academically but also as a fresh young student, barely able to speak English, who is taken under the wing of the kind matron of Chinese culture, Johanna Silver (Meryl Streep). Liu Xing develops his own theory that the universe is united by massive amounts of unseen Dark Matter. When the student's theory conflicts with Reiser's theory, the negative results begin to affect each of the characters: Liu Xing sees his dream of earning a PhD in Cosmology and winning the Nobel Prize for his theory destroyed by the powers of academia and as he watches his fellow Chinese students succeed, he is plagued with low self esteem as he attempts to support his family in Beijing with money earned selling cosmetics door to door. The downfall of a simple genius destroyed by the inner workings of academia leads to unimaginable tragedy.

    Billy Shebar's screenplay tinkers with the story's credibility with a heavy dose of sentimentality at times, but director Shi-Zheng Chen keeps the story moving by allowing the audience to witness frequent glimpses of Liu Xing's humble Beijing home life. The star of the film is the very talented Ye Liu, but Streep and Quinn carry their rather minor roles with great dignity and understatement. This is a moving story, too frequently repeated in our campuses to overlook. There is much more to this film than first viewings reveal. Grady Harp
  • "Dark Matter" is a fantastic movie. For those frustrated with academic politics or anybody who enjoys a simple movie told well, shot well and acted brilliantly, should see Dark Matter.

    The writer/director got it right. (Not necessarily details surrounding previous incidents that this may be based on), but the overall attitude of the students, and professors at the university are portrayed perfectly.

    The story follows a brilliant Chinese student at an American University trying to get his Ph.D. under a successful and respected professor (played by Aidan Quinn). They showed us everything we needed to know about the main character, including contrasts to his fellow Chinese students with very effective, subtle scenes.

    For the subtlety, effectiveness, simplicity, and brilliance of everything in this movie, "Dark Matter" is one of the best recent films made.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I just want to second a previous comment on the claim that the film was "based on a true event". In my opinion, the film should certainly change their claim so that the audience know it is NOT (actually far from) a narrative of the true event.

    In the true event, the student, Gang Lu, was far from a naive victim whose dream was shattered by academic politics and cultural difference as portrayed by the film, but rather a self-promoting and selfish psycho who couldn't tolerate the fact that another fellow student was better than him. If you are interested, the following links give more details.


    If you can read Chinese, this link provides much more details, even including Gang's final letter to his sister, the person he felt the closest:
  • No one can know what is in the mind of another-especially in the case of mass murder. Shi-Zheng Chen, director of DARK MATTER, has created a fresh vision of America from the point of view of a recent arrival to this country. Liu Ying, masterfully played by Ye Liu, is a Chinese graduate student who has come to the US to study Cosmology with a professor that he has idolized his entire life. Ying's life seems to be filled with unlimited possibility, and the answers to all of his dreams and wishes seem just around the corner. DARK MATTER's forte is the portrayal of the energized spirit in this young graduate student. The film is shot in Big Sky country of Utah, and this location perfectly mirrors this limitless potential. Ying's area of study is the examination of dark and uncharted areas of the cosmos which seem to exert dramatic effects on the nature of life. These 'dark areas' are mirrored in the clandestine machinations of the politics of graduate school. It seems that the unfettered life of the mind only works if new ideas are able to fit within intellectual processes which have been well established over time. And this becomes the dilemma of the film. How can the free and uninhibited flow of ideas intersect with the rigidity of higher education? The sudden and shocking climax to the movie is a resolution to this issue, although certainly not a fair or just one. DARK MATTER shows how violence can be the inescapable consequence of murdered hope.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Dark Matter is a neat little film about the promise and peril of being a Chinese graduate student at an American university. It gives you a peek inside the subculture of young Asians imported into the country in virtual indentured servitude to the careers and egos of middle-aged academics.

    Liu Xing (Liu Ye) is a brilliant math student who's come to the U.S. to study with renowned cosmology professor Jake Reiser (Aidan Quinn). He immediately put Xing to work and is impressed with the results, as long as they conform to Reiser's existing theories on the structure of the universe. Xing winds up living with two other Chinese graduate students, Little Square (Li Bo) and Old Wu (He Yu), and becomes friends with Joanna Silver (Meryl Streep), a rich man's wife who's fascinated with China and has become a patron of the constant stream of Chinese graduate students flowing into Professor Reiser's lab. Xing even develops a crush on a pretty townie (Taylor Schilling) who runs the local tea shop. He writes letters back to China telling his parents of how wonderful things are for him in America.

    But then things stop being so wonderful. Xing's academic career is stalled when his theories on so-called "dark matter" conflict with Professor Reiser's ideas and a much more Americanized student with the Americanized name of Laurence Feng replaces him on the fast track for a PhD. His townie girl crush tells Xing she just wants to be friends and he eventually ends up selling cosmetics door-to-door. But Xing's letters home remain and bright and cheerful as ever, covering up a black depression that explodes in a moment of violent insanity.

    Sadly reminiscent of a tragedy at the University of Iowa nearly 20 years ago, Dark Matter gently engages you in considering a cultural and economic phenomenon that's been around for so long, it's become a cliché. Asian graduate students in the sciences are so numerous, they've become a punch line on shows like Futurama. This film helps you to think of them as real people, the kind of people who want to make money, become Americans, go home or even win a Nobel Prize. It helps you to imagine what it's like to be stranded in a strange land, surrounded by your countrymen but still very much alone.

    The acting is also pretty good, though it's odd to see a Meryl Streep movie where she doesn't give the best performance. She's fine, but Joanna Silver's a fairly minor character who contributes more to the atmosphere of the film than she does to the plot. No, the standout actor here is definitely Aidan Quinn. Reiser is the linchpin on which Liu Zing's life turns and Quinn does an excellent job at showing how vanity and envy can dominate the minds of even the smartest men. Liu Ye and Lloyd Suh also draw such a wonderful contrast between the frustrated integrity of Liu Xing that eventually turns in on itself and the vacuous ambition of Laurence Feng that leads to reward, as it so often does in this unfortunate world.

    There are a lot of little things to enjoy in Dark Matter. From Reiser's feisty secretary Hildy (Blair Brown) to Xing's interactions with his roommates to Bill Irwin playing Hal Silver, the rich man who tries to tolerate his wife's involvement with the Chinese students. The only quibble I could have with it is that the movie does move very quickly from the beginning to the end of Xing's emotional implosion and it feels like there's about 10 or so minutes of the film that have been left out. A lot of the dialog is also in Chinese with subtitles, so you do have to accept that.

    All in all, though, I quite liked Dark Matter. It's a good little movie that deserves a gander.
  • For a film based on a true story, it could have been much better, much deeper, much more involving. This movie is overly simplistic, too straightforward. Everything is black or white, good or bad. Reality is never like this. A pity really, the premise is actually fascinating. The screenplay should have stuck much more to the truth, to actual events, they should have tried to portrait the characters faithfully, without trying to 'simplify' things for the viewer, to make the film more 'stylistically viable'.

    Oh yes, and this is one of the few movies (if not the only one) where Merryl Streeps presence was totally unnoticeable, if not unnecessary.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I just saw a screening of this tonight, and it ROCKED.

    This flick was Hard-Core. Kind of a matter-of-fact, naturally progressing story of a nice brilliant kid who comes from China to a U.S. college to stake his claim to scientific fortune and glory, but instead finds only a politicized academic world he can not penetrate.

    A pretty extreme character to start with, but also extremely likable, he turns into a poster- boy for a certain type of desperation with no outlet. You can kind of see it all coming from a mile away, but the outcome still packs a crazy kick in the gut. Maybe even all the more so for its nauseous inevitability.

    The movie really puts you in the head-space of a person who most of us insular Americans don't consider too often: the Grad student from a foreign country (like China) who's here against all odds to pursue a prestigious P.H.D., and who's under enormous academic, financial, and familial pressures we can hardly match.

    And the way that it's all conveyed to us is beautifully done.

    There's a Whole Lotta Feeling in the colors and shapes and sounds and music that are poured over us, like a bath. The subtle but far-reaching color-palette and the composition of the shots are great. Bright colors for the campus (and the "wild west"). Washed-Out Browns and Grays for his parents back in China. Drab Greens and Grays and Blues and Yellows for the students' dormitory apartment. There's a lot of interesting use of space. Both claustrophobic and wide-open, imposing and freeing. The fragmented frame. The sometimes crazy angles. The use of extreme close-ups. The placement of the main guy within much larger spaces in wide shots that emphasize his relative insignificance. He knows he's onto a big break-through about the nature of the universe, but to us he's just another hamster on the wheel.

    And it was really sweet the way the whole thing was segmented and labeled with the elements over iconic shots like "fire", "water", "wood", "metal", and what-not. It was in keeping with the themes they had going of natural forces, and the strange physics of human relationships and kiss-ass politics, and what was really there or not, what was the dark matter in play against this guy? forces that he couldn't see operating, on the D.L. wavelengths that he didn't have the science for himself? There's a lot going' on for this guy.

    The acting is great all around. Really Cake-Taking in places.

    Meryl Streep is under-stated as a supporting player who has some great moments with the main guy, especially in a quiet scene at her place toward the end that's an All-Timer.

    Aidan Quinn is great as a professor and potential mentor, and potential player-hater. He embodies qualities both admirable and unforgivable with equal directness and verve. By the end there are indeed shadings of light and darkness to that ever-present twinkle in his eye. A tragic figure himself, he seems like somebody who there's probably a lot of like out there.

    And the main guy, the Chinese student, forgive me for not knowing the name please, but this guy is Incredible in this role. I mean he's Awesome. Really Amazing.

    I mean, he's so endearing at the beginning. I just wanted things so much to go well for him when he was starting out. He can barely speak English, but the guy communicates so much. And then, as he has more and more trouble navigating the mutual back-scratch society of the U.S. P.H.D. chase, the uncomfortable moments just start snow-balling. And whoever this kid is, he really REALLY takes it there. He's so reaching and vulnerable it's menacing. A real cringer.

    It's a tall statement, I know, but his portrayal has amazing echoes, in quality and nature, of De Niro's Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver". In the way that they're both so searching and sincere and even sweet, and yet thwarted at every turn in their quest for belonging and identity and success. Mind you, this kid's got a whole helluva lot more going' on than Travis did, but that adds to the magnitude of his personal tragedy. He's a Genius, with so much amazing potential, but just as much a social cripple and outcast, and even more doomed. It's Heart-Breaking.

    Maybe it ain't for everybody.

    This is one of those movies that some people might dismiss as "independant" or "artsy- fartsy" or what-have-you, but which is a Damn-Well-Made story, and an uncomfortably familiar one. A sad scary detour off the road to the "American Dream" that we're seeing all too often in the news lately. Whatever the reaction to it is when it hits theaters, It's a movie that'll be looked back on as a searching and serious (and vital) work of art. As something informed by the times and asking some overdue questions. Among them:

    What happens? Why's it happen? And how can we keep it from happening again?
  • I watched this with several friends and it was interesting to see who was surprised by the ending and who wasn't. Let there be no doubt, there is a great subject for a plot here. Forget that its based on a true story because its not - that's just marketing and fodder for pointless forum discussions.

    What really hurt this movie were the pointless special effects and overly exaggerated sentimental shots, mostly featuring Meryl Streep, interspersed throughout the movie - typically after a scene where the protagonist experiences success or failure. There are only a handful of these shots and they only last seconds – but they are schmaltzy in an otherwise very believable movie. If you're watching even somewhat closely, they give away the movie very quickly.

    I'll bet Shi-Zheng Chen goes on eventually to make a truly great movie. This one is about half way there.
  • sol-kay14 April 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    (There are Spoilers) Getting the highest entrance scores in the collages history young but very naive Beijing physics grad Liu Xing, Ye Ling, was given the honor to work with the great American cosmologist professor Jacob Reiser, Aidan Quinn, as his #1 assistant. Being very impressed in the work, in both physics and cosmology, he did back in China Prof. Reiser wants Liu to help him with his work in proving the "Reiser String Theory". It's the "String Theory" that, in Reiser's mind, ties together the entire far flung universe into a neat compact and single ball of cosmic wax.

    Liu who at first worshiped the ground that the "Great Man"-Professor Reiser- walked on soon came to conclusions that were totally opposite to his "String Theory". This made made the at first friendly and lovable professor a bit ticked off in his #1 assistant Liu making him look foolish by being totally off the mark in how strings keep the universe from drifting apart! What Liu theorized and later proved on paper, with higher mathematics, is that there's in fact undetected but massive amounts of "Dark Matter", instead of strings, that keeps the universe uniformed-in the even distances of its stars nd galaxies from each other-and in tact! By this very simple formula that he was to base his doctoral dissertation on Liu totally destroyed Professor Reiser's flimsy and badly thought out "String Theory". With the professor putting Liu's theory down as just wishful thinking he later had it, behind Prof. Reiser's back, published in a prestigious science magazine that had Reiser-in making his "String Theory" look totally ridicules-really lose it!

    Feeling that Liu isn't a "team Player" Prof. Reiser used all his power-as the "Great Man" of science that he is- and influence to destroy Liu career as not only a future Nobel Prize winner but even flunking him and preventing Liu from advancing in the world of science and becoming a physics professor. Liu for his part was totally shocked in his boss-Prof. Reiser-actions since he always thought that the pursuit of knowledge-or science- was above petty politics! Ending up as a delivery boy, selling perfume and body lotion, Liu in finding out that his fellow Chinese grad student Laurence Feng, Llyod Suh, has been picked by Prof. Reiser as the collage's BSY-Best Student of the Year-his brilliant mind completely short-circuited!

    In Liu's mind not only was Feng a butt-kissing, in how he always sucked up to Prof. Reiser, creep but that he also dishonored his Chinese culture and forefathers by becoming too Americanized. This act of betrayal to his race was by Feng changing his given Chinese name of Zhang to Laurence, or "Larry", in order to get the very coveted Best Student of the Year Award. What was even worse is that Liu felt, and rightfully so, that he was a far better student then Larry ever was! It was there and then that Liu made up his mind to not only make Larry but Prof. Reiser and all those-the collage faculty-who conspired to destroyed his future in the world of science pay for what they did to him and pay big time!

    The movie "Dark Matter", which is based on a true story, was to be released around the time of the April 16, 2007 "Virginia Tech Massacre". It was then that a 23 year-old South Korean exchange student Seung-Hui Cho, much like Liu Xing in the movie, went nuts and gunned down some 30 people. The movie was put on the shelf and released only on DVD some two years later when the "Virginia Tech Massacre" was no longer front page news.
  • vladtn25 January 2009
    I started watching this film with the IMDb reviews in mind. Nothing could prepare me to what I have seen. Definitely a great director. The story is told with subtlety, depression is painted with soft strokes, one almost doesn't even know what caused it. A story of minimal events that makes a life. Strangely, and I feel sorry to say that, it is the first Chinese film I have seen that embraces foreign culture, and in such a way. The only thing that is bad in this film are the title credits and the end which is maybe too dramatic, but beautiful. Watch it. Yes, I am watching the end right now, too dramatic, and the end credits look like the start one. Great film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'm not sure if the ending was so terrible due to lack of budget...or just terrible story telling. Either way....don't let the known actors in this film be your reason for watching it, as even their presence cannot redeem the ending of this film . It was obvious what yet needed to happen to vindicate the main character....and to punish the professor who all along was being built up as a jealous man trying to keep a dead theory in play for his own personal gains....but this you will not see....instead of the last 35-40 minutes of the see a murder suicide for a "Quick and cheap wrap!" Just another film dumped on the market in hopes of retrieving it's initial investment....which I seriously doubt it did.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Better at being thought provoking than entertaining in the strict sense of the word, the core of this movie is the conflict between two brilliant men in a high stakes, high power academic setting. One is the Chinese student of modest means, Liu Xing, who comes to the US to study under Reiser, the brilliant American professor, who expects Xing to support his theory as a graduate student. When he doesn't, things go very badly.

    The acting is superb across the board. The scenic shots are good, and while the characters tend to exude excessive sentimentality at times, especially Streep, the often vicious nature of competition in academia is captured superbly.

    The simplistic viewpoint is that Liu Xing publishes an article attacking Reiser's theory through naiveté. More likely, he was less naive than conceited, and when he lost the game his ego fractured and he raised the stakes.

    There is good timing throughout, although at times it drags a bit it never really gets boring. One of the better movies to see.

    BTW: There is no math and no theory in the movie. This is about the people, not the theories involved.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's surprising that in light of the recent- and all too familiar university shootings director Chen Shi-Zheng had it in him to create an American drama that if only shallowly interpreted sheds a sympathetic light on today's young villains. Although the film overall speaks for the universal and inherent desire for power and fame, the literal and obvious message still remains, 'we drive today's kids to insanity and therefore we are the evil force behind the shootings.' Liu Xing, (played by Chinese superstar Ye Liu), is an Asian cosmology genius awarded a student visa to study in a prestigious US university. With high hopes of becoming a Nobel Prize winner and an eventual scientific icon, Xing promises his family money and personal success as he departs. The movie keeps a cute theme going of Xing writing home between the movie 'chapters.' At first the letters are hopeful and truthfully portraying Xing's life on campus as the head assistant to a superior professor at the university (played by Aiden Quinn). Quinn, as professor Reiser, soon realizes Xing's potential genius and the possible supplementary implications of this- and instead of further motivating Xing he aims at destroying the boy. Xing's theory on dark matter (sadly, a too obvious connection to the film's title) challenges Reiser's and with credibility at that- and therefore challenges his political stature. A fellow student with holes in his dissertation gains all the undeserved recognition by solely keeping congruent with Reiser's theory. Xing refuses to compromise his identity and integrity and it proves to be his single and ultimate downfall. Ultimately the deterioration of Xing's character is a combination of a failing in his academics, (solely due to politics), and the pain he endures having to compose a false, idealistic life to relay home to his parents. The story tragically ends as Xing interrupts a school function and shoots his adviser, professor, fellow students and then himself.

    Xing creates sympathy for himself throughout the film as we witness his decay and Ye's performance all the more enhances the effect. Silent tears and a noticeable alcohol and cigarette addiction tear at the viewers while Xing genuinely tries to follow his passion at the dismay of Reiser. At the final scene we feel the pain for Xing- not those slaughtered carelessly.

    Dark Matter is a great movie to inspire people to think and start to want to understand each other better! This film had a very intriguing story line, but left me with the impression that there was an excessive degree of effort devoted in trying to turn this film into a thriller. During the scenes with expected emotion and tension, flashy special effects were used to hide the lack of theatrics in the dialogue, filling this film with unsystematic art. The intention was understood, but I don't feel as though it was executed properly. What I liked about the film is that the dialog flowed comfortably and with ease, at almost a relaxing pace allowing you get a sincere feel of the characters. However, this goes against the grain, leading the audience to subconsciously view the protagonist as though he were a victim of society even though he was clearly at fault in the end.
  • mr_popcorn21 September 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    "The universe is made mostly of dark matter and dark energy, and we don't know what either of them is" - Saul Perlmutter Inspired by actual events, director Chen Shi-Zheng's socially conscious psychological drama follows the journey of an ambitious Chinese scientist working towards his Ph.D. in America, only to be marginalized to the extent that he ultimately loses his way. All Liu Xing (Liu Ye) ever wanted was to study the origins of the universe at a Western university. Upon arriving at the school, Liu immediately rents a modest apartment with a few other Chinese students and begins flirting with the pretty American who works at the local coffee shop. Personally welcomed into Department Head Jacob Reiser's (Aidan Quinn) select cosmology group, Liu remains dedicated to his studies and optimistic about the future. Things continue to look up as Liu becomes close with wealthy university patron Johanna Silver (Meryl Streep) after the two become acquainted at an orientation for foreigners sponsored by a local church.

    Eventually, Liu becomes Reiser's protégé, and makes a sizable impression at a prestigious conference attended by the pair. But attitudes start to shift when Liu's studies in dark matter come into direct conflict with his mentor's prominent theories and well-established studies. His excitement about a potential breakthrough causes him to ignore repeated warnings that he must pay his dues, and Liu's findings are eventually eclipsed by that of more studious fellow student Laurence. Determined to have his studies published, Liu goes behind Reiser's back, but he ultimately becomes the target of ire rather than accolades, with Johanna's naïve encouragement prompting him along a dangerous collision course. While Liu remains enamored with the concept of the American dream and optimistic about American science being a free market of ideas, he begins to grow dejected after his dissertation is rejected, the girl at the coffee shop blows him off, and his roommates all find lucrative jobs. Essentially left behind at the university, Liu rejects Johanna's offer for help and vows not to return home to disappointed parents. Now, as he coasts on the fumes of his unrealized dreams, the dishonored student prepares to lash out with one final act of devastating annihilation.

    A fairly good film with a promising plot and class A actors but what really brought this film down I think is the way the director handled his cluttered vision of the premise and it came out to messy for me. The special effects were really unnecessary, this is an indie art house flick so its alright if you don't use special effects if its not really called to the occasion. And the repetitive use of overly sentimental shots of lead character Liu Xing was a bit annoying, I mean I already get the scene was emotional, I don't need to stare in the face of a mopey Chinese guy contemplating his streaks of bad luck.

    On the other hand though, the actors in the film were really exceptional. Lead Liu Ye, who is apparently a big shot actor in China marks his American debut with this film. The material given maybe a bit too cluttered but he did his best with it and came out really good. I can't really say his debut went out with a bang but he's almost there. Meryl Streep of course, always the pro. You can't go wrong with the lady.

    Overall, I'd say the acting was exceptional and the plot is really promising but the material is just too cluttered and messy for my style. Should have left the unnecessary special effects in the cutting room floor.
  • After a few minutes of watching this movie you realize its tempo is not the tempo of an American film, and despite the fact that it is an American product, the mind behind it is oriental. Completely. In reality one is watching an oriental film shot in the States, with a mixed cast of American and Chinese (japanese also?) actors.

    Everybody is excellent in his or her role and the direction is flawless. I think I'm not the only one to have noticed immediately when envy started raising its ugly head, and from then on the outcome is quite predictable.

    Even so, it's a beautiful film from beginning to end, with a particular calmness in all the scenes. The episode with the cosmetic line is quite pathetic and both actors are just sublime in it.

    They say that we make all those plans for our future and destiny (or whatever you call it) comes and throws everything to the wind. The oriental way to show us that, as subtle as it is in this film, is a thousand times more effective and overwhelming than displaying the usual Hollywood fireworks.
  • Liu Xing is recruited from China to work as a graduate student under his hero Jacob Reiser (Aidan Quinn). Reiser is famous for his model of physics. Liu Xing joins a group of Chinese students who work for Reiser with little pay. They scrounge for food but Liu Xing paints a pretty picture for his hard-working parents back home. Joanna Silver (Meryl Streep) is a rich benefactor for the Chinese students. Liu Xing falls for coffee girl Jackie (Taylor Schilling) but she doesn't feel the same. He starts to push for a different model than Reiser but he's rejected. As each failure piles up, he breaks down in a volatile way.

    I have two main problems with this movie. Firstly, this seems to suggest that China is a free source of third world mental labor. I don't think it works quite as well in the present day but it works better back in 1991. Second, the ending is such a different tone that it damages the movie. The movie desperately needs foreshadowing. Liu Xing needs to have a more complex personality. It's like the movie falls a cliff and there is no warning.
  • The main issue beyond the plot - dark matter, cosmology etc - are not interesting to me, but the scenes have smoothly combined and related human issues have been pleasantly highlighted (perhaps the ending comes too suddenly). When East meets West, then differences in thinking and linguistic difficulties are present and coping with them is not always easy for those involved and their circles. And like in many other areas, science is also full of intrigues and I am sure that many important inventions or explorations have been covered up or postponed.

    All the cast is good at least, but Liu Ye and Meryl Streep are both outperforming the others. Mrs Streep is definitely the greatest, the most versatile contemporary actress. Mr Ye was unknown to me, but I think he is worth remembering (hopefully Hollywood will not exploit him in B-range action movies).

    Recommendable to those fond of dramas based on real events, although I consider Hawking (2004) better.
  • uncdrose29 June 2009
    At least I rented this movie through Redbox, which means I only lost a dollar on the rental. If anything, this movie made me realize what a vast cultural divide there is between Americans and people who come to our country. Liu Ye's entire focus was on coming up with such a phenomenal concept that he would win the Nobel Prize and give his parents great honor. He has no real perception of what a dissertation is supposed to be. He lives and thinks in clichés and is clueless about what is really important. The previews that I had seen of this movie were much better than the actual film. I am shocked that Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn were part of this production.
  • rosecalifornia23 November 2020
    Most of us really enjoy Meryl Streep....her acting is top notch as usual, her character pulls right in.

    Liu Ye, I've never even heard of....but he is a great example of why foreign films are superb...his acting in this role has you pulling for him scene after scene...

    Not giving anything away - just watch it - tell everyone to leave you alone, get absorbed into this film and you will walk away knowing the emotions of every character played.
  • If you missed this movie upon its release, you've probably found out about the plot. I didn't have that luxury, as I attended a special screening at my college that told audience members to come see the new Meryl Streep movie and stick around for a panel of guests to answer questions. I knew absolutely nothing about it and was understandably rattled. Thankfully, I'd gone to the screening with a friend, and rather than stick around for the questions, we went out for ice cream together and tried to shake off our feelings.

    It's up to you whether or not you want to find out the main focus of the plot before renting it. I won't spoil anything, but I will warn you that it's extremely heavy. The protagonist is Liu Ye, a Chinese student at an American university who pushes himself to succeed. He bonds with university patron Meryl Streep and on her recommendation develops an interest in cosmology. Aiden Quinn costars as a professor and mentor who has an impact on his academic journey.

    The rest is up to you. If you watch the preview, you won't get anything ruined for you. If you read a synopsis, you will. If you do decide to watch it, you'll discover a new star (pun not intended) in Liu Ye, who breaks your heart as his world comes crashing down around him. If you're watching it for Meryl Streep or Aiden Quinn, they're not the focal point.
  • blueangelical22 February 2020
    Absolutely bloody awful.

    Managed 20mins and I was screaming at the screen to stop. I've cleaned babies nappies full of doo doo that were more fun than this.

  • iNickR28 November 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    I was empathetic toward Ye Liu for the first 75 minutes; it's like he just couldn't catch a break. It's not uncommon for genius and mental illness to co-exist, but jeez, did he have to do what he did?

    Very loosely based on (the then) 28-year-old Gang Lu and the University of Iowa shooting on November 1, 1991. The former graduate student killed four members of the university's faculty and a student; he left another student seriously injured, before committing suicide.

    This film is loosely (emphasis there) based on those events, but do we really need to see a school shooting? Yes, I think so. There were other options he could have explored, but then that wouldn't be much a movie now would it? Ironically it is the ending that allowed me to give Dark Matter the 6 stars that I did. I knew nothing about this movie before I watched it, but I was waiting for something to kick off – the plot summary just says he "reacts violently". I was getting a little bored before the end. I mean, I get it, he feels no one understands him, people are holding him back, or don't like him, or both...blah, blah, blah. He's like Gil Gunderson of The Simpsons: he just can't catch a break, poor guy. Well, you can only push a man so far.

    I can see what the director, Shi-Zheng Chen, was doing with the constant disappointments in Liu's life. Chen really wanted us to feel for Liu, and to understand him. Perhaps he did this to help us make sense of Liu's senseless actions?

    Art imitating life, imitating art. Or whatever.
  • jotix10021 November 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    Some foreign students coming to American universities don't adapt easily to the environment they find, however nice the professors and mentors are to them. No matter how brilliant they are, there seems to be a sort of wall between their higher goals and the reality of the culture they find in a land that, for all practical purposes might be the moon, as far as they are concerned.

    This is a story based on an actual incident at the University of Iowa in 1991. Not remembering the actual incident, watching the film we are taken to a sort of situation that probably parallels the original tale in which a Chinese student's relationship with a professor is examined. The casualness of Jacob Reiser's approach to science clashes with his protégé Liu Xing in ways that will end in tragic results. Liu Xing dreams about a possibility of winning a Nobel prize as he begins to question his mentor in aspects concerning the cosmology matters.

    The film, directed by Chen Shi-Zeng, who is well known for his direction of operas that have played in America, is a beautiful piece of film making. The trouble though is one's own detachment from the lofty subject at the center of the piece. The picture will be appreciated much more by people in this particular field. The main asset is the magnificent music in the background by the Beijing Angelic Choir in the interpretation of classics such as "Ode to Joy", "Beautiful Dreamer" and Schubert's "Serenade" that blend well within the content of the piece.

    As far as the performances, Ye Lui, a Chinese actor makes a case for his Liu Xing. Meryl Streep, who appears as Joanna Silver, a sort of unofficial counselor to the Chinese student population, has no other explanation of being in the film because of her name, more than what she is asked to do. Aidan Quinn is good as Professor Reiser.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a confusing muddled drama of the sad plight of a brilliant Chinese student at an American university.

    This is the first effort of both the director; Shi=Zheng Che & writer Billy Shebar.

    If more experienced hands did this movie it very likely would have been handled better.

    The student(going for his PHD) is played by LUI YE-- from mainland China, His performance is first rate,He is a major actor in China & its easy to see why.

    Aiden Quinn is his mentor & professor & does his usual fine performance. Meryl Streep as a small ,but pivotal role and to me she seems not up to her usual par.

    The movie was filmed in Utah, & played in some festivals in 2007, released to very few theatres in 2008 & the box-office was pitiful.

    This is one of those films where they expect the audience to know what the story is supposed to be about. I was confused & think all will be as well...

    Ratings **1/2 (out of 4) 70 points (out of 100) IMDb 6 (out of 10)
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