by Del Harvey
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Chinese director Chen Shi-Zheng’s Dark Matter is the story of Liu Xing (Liu Ye), a quiet, thoughtful, and brilliant Chinese student who has a rather bumpy transition into American culture at Valley State University. But a wealthy university patron Joanna Silver (Meryl Streep) comes to his aid when she takes a liking to the young student.
Xing soon joins a select cosmology group under the direction of his idol, the famous cosmologist Professor Jacob Reiser (Aidan Quinn). This intellectual group is struggling to create a model of the origins of the universe based upon Reiser’s theories. But it is Xing’s enormous talent which leads him to quickly become Reiser’s protégé. Once that has happened, it seems that only hard work stands between the young student and a bright future in science.
His future really looks up when he wins the attention of a blue-eyed blonde classmate who seems to be genuinely impressed by this exotic young man.
Things become troubling when Xing develops an obsession with the study of dark matter, an unseen substance which he believes shapes the universe. When he develops a theory that conflicts with the Reiser model, Xing begins to make scientific breakthroughs of his own, and also to encounter unexpected and amazing obstacles.
Unfortunately for Xing, his dissertation on dark matter is rejected, and then he must come to terms with many difficult decisions.
The film won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and is now available on DVD from Screen Media Films.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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