Orion and the Dark — Review: A Profound Story for Kids

KJ Proulx's Reviews
3 min readFeb 9, 2024

by KJ Proulx

Promotional Artwork for ‘Orion and the Dark’ [Credit: Netflix]

I’m not going to lie, seeing big companies like Dreamworks Animation making feature films that go straight to streaming services is becoming upsetting. I believe great stories deserve to be seen on the big screen, and even though this was clearly done on a smaller budget, this is a story that families need to show their kids. There were moments of this film that I found to be so good that it almost rivalled the great Pixar films. No, I don’t put Orion and the Dark on that level of greatness, but overall it’s a very, very good film. For a film aimed at a young audience, it can be pretty profound.

Orion (Jacob Tremblay) is a scared-of-everything middle schooler who wishes to grow up and not be this way, but when his biggest fear of all, the dark (Paul Walter Hauser), becomes a real, speaking entity, his fears must be faced. Along with appearances from entities Light (Ike Barinholtz), Insomnia (Nat Faxon), Sweet Dreams (Angela Bassett), Quiet (Aparna Nancherla), Unexplained Noises (Golda Rosheuvel), and Sleep (Natasia Demetriou), everything we experience on a nightly basis, especially as children, are all personified here. At first, I figured this would feel too similar to Inside Out or Elemental, but found it to be its own original idea that fits right in with those films. This is a story about a young boy uniquely facing his fears, and profound dialogue (even for a kid's film) is expressed along the way. I guess I should have expected great dialogue though, since this was written by the one and only Charlie Kaufman.

From Being John Malkovich to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and even more recently with I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Kaufman is a writer that I have loved. I need to see more of his work on-screen, but I have yet to watch a film he has written that I didn’t think was at least very good. Yes, his thought-provoking nature is toned down slightly here because his live-action work isn’t exactly for children. It’s almost like he took one of his amazing, adult ideas, and wrote it for kids. I thought in that way, Orion and the Dark really worked. It can be a little childish at times, but the messages are fantastic. Where this film took a slight dip for me though was in the final act.