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49

Mixed or average reviews - based on 16 Critics What's this?

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6.2

Generally favorable reviews- based on 6 Ratings

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  • Summary: Liu Xing is a Chinese science student pursuing a PhD in the US in the early 1990s. Driven by ambition yet unable to navigate academic politics, Liu Xing is inexorably pushed to the margins of American life until he loses his way. Liu Xing arrives at a big Western university with plans toLiu Xing is a Chinese science student pursuing a PhD in the US in the early 1990s. Driven by ambition yet unable to navigate academic politics, Liu Xing is inexorably pushed to the margins of American life until he loses his way. Liu Xing arrives at a big Western university with plans to study the origins of the universe. In the beginning, everything is looking up. He finds other Chinese students to share a cheap apartment with him, and flirts with an attractive American girl who works in a local tea shop. When the head of the department, Jacob Reiser, welcomes Liu Xing into his select cosmology group, it seems that only hard work stands between him and a bright future in American science. At an orientation for foreigners sponsored by a local church, Joanna Silver, a wealthy patron of the university, notices the earnest student, and an unspoken bond forms between them. Liu Xing becomes Reiser's protege, accompanying him to a prestigious conference where he makes an impressive debut. He is drawn to the study of dark matter, an unseen substance that shapes the universe, but it soon becomes clear that his developing theories threaten the Reiser model. Excited by the possibility of a breakthrough, Liu Xing is deaf to warnings that he must first pay his dues. Soon he is eclipsed within the department by Laurence, a more dutiful Chinese student, and is forced to go behind Reiser's back to publish his discoveries. When his article draws ire instead of accolades, Liu Xing turns to Joanna, who naively encourages him on his collision course. Liu Xing clings to the idea of American science as a free market of ideas, and of American society as wide open to immigrants. But in the end, his dissertation is rejected, and the girl in the tea shop brushes him off. His roommates find jobs, leaving him behind. Too proud to accept help from Joanna and unwilling to return home to his parents, Liu Xing becomes a ghostlike presence at the university. Left alone with his shattered dreams, he explodes in a final act of violence. (First Independent Pictures) Collapse
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 16
  2. Negative: 2 out of 16
  1. Reviewed by: Maureen M. Hart
    75
    The film does a fine job of displaying the contrasts between these tense, formalized Chinese students and the faux populist American academics.
  2. Dark Matter, with its view of cutthroat politics and competing egos inside a university, is also laudable in its refusal to soft-pedal the viciously petty side of the academic fishbowl.
  3. Director Chen Shi-Zheng's film has a graceful energy, and three strong performances help make this serene drama - and its shocking conclusion - quietly moving.
  4. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    50
    The final act of Dark Matter is grim but unconvincing, and the shortfall leaves an ugly, exploitive taste in your mouth.
  5. Reviewed by: Gregory Kirschling
    42
    Liu Ye is too inexpressive for his role's demands, and the movie doesn't build to his downfall: It just zaps itself there.
  6. 40
    Dark Matter has neither the technical command of an art-house film nor the manufactured intensity of a grade-B thriller, yet it's also too cheap and dirty to feel like a Hollywood-scale drama.
  7. Reviewed by: Reyhan Harmanci
    25
    If only it weren't based on a true story. It might have been a good movie.

See all 16 Critic Reviews

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