It’s incredibly creepy to witness entertainment and media representations of key historical figures of some of the United States’ most violent crimes, and the film, Charlie Says builds even more upon the horrifying icons come to be known under the murderer, Charles Manson’s reign in the end of the 1960s. Susan Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Susan Atkins are being kept at the California Institute for Women in the mid-1970s at the time being portrayed.
Their futures have been largely carved into stone, through damning testimonies and what is known largely as the intense influence Manson had over the members of his “Family”. But a graduate student, Karlene Faith, working with others to provide therapy and rehabilitation to the incarcerated, grows deeply empathetic to the lives of these three murderous women of history. Will the women’s belief systems toward Manson, the Family, and the murders will change or will their deep delusions continue undeterred?
The film is another in a long list of true crime interest stories, some more fictional. But the majority being highly interesting and intriguing as reflective of their collective times and the shocking, unbelievable events that made the knowledge and interest toward their existence and details longstanding and infamous. It is based on the book Faith wrote about her time talking with and attempting to rehabilitate these women.
Charlie Says really serves to portray intriguingly and cinematographically the women’s perspectives, beliefs, and the depth of their delusions under Manson’s influence. Her interactions with them in this way ultimately lead Faith down an introspective path of reexamining the foundations of guilt and innocence, building her relationships with the women through in-depth conversations and exposing them to critical research, history, and art. This timeline is itself shot between tense contrasting scenes of Manson’s Family at Spahn Ranch, him taking increased control physically, financially, and mentally over his members.