‘Orion and the Dark’ (2024) Review: Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Nuha Hassan
3 min readFeb 6, 2024
Paul Walter Hauser voices Dark and Jacob Tremblay voices Orion. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Sean Charmatz’s Orion and the Dark, written by Charlie Kaufman (The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind), is not meant for kids afraid of the dark. Well, maybe it is because the story follows a young boy who encounters a being in the darkness. When whisked away from his home, the young boy must learn to live without fear and embrace happiness. Orion and the Dark is a surprising and heartwarming movie that introduces various entertaining characters and a positive message.

Orion (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) is a fifth-grader perpetually anxious about everything. He’s afraid to talk to his classmates; he’s scared of speaking up in class and terrified of his bullies, bees, murderous clowns in the gutter, and worst of all, he’s afraid of the dark. Every night, his parents (voiced by Matt Dellapina and Carla Gugino) read him bedtime stories to make it easier for him.

After they tell him he is safe, Orion meets his biggest fear: the literal Dark (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser). Dark swears that he will help Orion get over his fears and so, the being dressed in a dark cloak introduces him to the other night deities: Sweet Dreams (voiced by Angela Bassett), Insomnia (voiced by Nat Faxon), Sleep (voiced by Natasia Demetriou), Quiet (voiced by Aparna Nancherla), and Unexplained Noises (voiced by Golda Rosheuvel) to help him understand how the night works.

Nat Faxon voices Insomnia, Aparna Nancherla voices Quiet, Angela Bassett voices Dreams, Natasia Demetriou voices Sleep and Golda Rosheuvel voices Unexplained Noises. Image courtesy of Netflix.

One of the best parts of Orion and the Dark is that it is a story within a story. Without spoiling it too much, Kaufman introduces an older Orion (voiced by Colin Hanks) who tells the story to his daughter Hypatia (voiced by Mia Akemi Brown). The story switches from the past to the present, focusing on Orion’s journey to face his fears, serving as a lesson for Hypatia to get over hers. The audience isn’t sure whether the story older Orion is describing is accurate because it turns into an unexpected story towards the end. It might not be what some viewers expect, but this is a screenplay by Kaufman, so it is meant to turn heads.

A charming part of Orion and the Dark is the story of a young boy facing his fears. It explores the anxieties of everyday life and growing up. Kaufman dives into the deeper parts of a person’s life where they don’t feel good about the decisions. Also, the anxieties of childhood fears that we’ve all had. It’s a clever decision to turn these childhood anxieties into colourful characters with individualistic personalities that help Orion understand night deities and overcome his fears. Not only does it examine the fear of growing up, but the night deities learn a few lessons from Orion, too.

Orion and the Dark is a charming and adventurous animated feature that tells a positive story of growing up and overcoming anxiety. It is an amusing tale of Orion’s challenges he had to overcome and shows excellent character development. The final act might be strange because it shifts into a metafictional story that seems entirely different from where the movie started. There’s always going to be a Kaufman-like twist at the end.

Here are some reading materials to learn about the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Palestine and the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement:

Decolonise Palestine

Books about Palestine on Verso Books

Books about Palestine on Haymarket Books

The Free Palestine Library

More Palestine reading materials

Read about the BDS movement

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