Gardens of the Night (2008)

Gardens of the Night 2008tt0833960.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: Gardens of the Night (2008)
  • Rate: 6.8/10 total 1,680 votes 
  • Genre: Drama
  • Runtime: Germany:110 min
  • Filming Location: Belmont Park, San Diego, California, USA
  • Director: Damian Harris
  • Stars: Gillian Jacobs, John Malkovich and Ryan Simpkins
  • Original Music By: Craig Richey   
  • Soundtrack: The Outlaw
  • Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital
  • Plot Keyword: Girl | Shelter | Abuse | Teenage Boy | Boy

Writing Credits By:

  • Damian Harris (written by)

Known Trivia

  • The homeless shelter that the adult Leslie visits is located in the Little Italy section of downtown San Diego. In real life it is not a homeless shelter, but as of March of 2010 the building is home to a local car rental business.

Plot: After being abducted as children, and suffering years of abuse, a teenage boy and girl find themselves living on the street. Full summary »  »

Story: An 8-year-old girl is taken from her home and convinced that her family does not want her anymore. After enduring years of horror, she and her fellow victim are dumped by their captures. Now, 17 years old and no one to turn to, except each other they do their best to survive life on the streets, until one day she finally accepts the help of a shelter counselor to find her way home. However, what she truly finds is the love of her life and that you can never go back. "Gardens of the Night", is a haunting, gritty and topical story which delves deep into the world of child abduction and where it often leads…for the "lucky ones." The writer/director, Damian Harris bases his story on the kids, counselors, cops and pimps he met during two years of research.Written by Anonymous  


Synopsis: At the age of eight, a young girl named Leslie (Gillian Jacobs) is kidnapped by Alex (Tom Arnold), and Frank (Kevin Zegers). Alex tricks her into helping him find his dog Trixie, then takes her to school; during the ride, he pretends that her father is his boss, thus earning her trust. After school, Alex and Frank find her again; they lure her into their car with a story about her dad being in trouble. Then they drug her and take her to their house. Alex tells her that her parents do not want her anymore. As proof, he provides a phone number to her "father’s cell phone" (actually just a pay phone), and when her repeated calls are unanswered, she eventually accepts his story. She and another victim, a young boy named Donny, are forced into prostitution and child-pornography. Alex is very protective and fatherly to them, which adds to her confusion. Their clientele include men in positions of authority, such as a court judge, and they are told that they are lucky to be with such good and honorable men. As a coping mechanism, Donny and Leslie pretend they are in an imaginary world based on the stories of Mowgli and the Jungle Book. One day, Leslie goes to a convenience store, where it becomes apparent that her parents are looking for her, due to the fact that her picture is on milk cartons. Leslie doesn’t see the cartons, thus preserving her notion that her parents don’t want her, but an owner of the store recognizes her, and alerts the police to her presence in the neighborhood. The police show up at Alex and Frank’s house, and the two kidnappers hastily escape with the children.

The story picks up years later, with Leslie and Donny together, living a hand to mouth existence. Leslie is prostituting herself, and as a way to move away from this, she tries to lure a young teen living in a shelter into a prostitution ring. Donny has fallen in love with her, but Leslie is very confused because while she loves and cares for him, he as always acted as a brother and companion to her, and never as a lover. She goes to the shelter in an attempt to win the girl’s trust and turn her out as a prostitute, but at the last minute she has a change of heart and returns the girl to the shelter. The counselor (John Malkovich) discovers her true identity and tells her that her parents have been looking for her all these years, which she finally realizes is true.

Leslie reunites with her parents and attempts to return home, however, she is too scarred from her life on the street and cannot remain in such a normal atmosphere. She leaves in the middle of the night and hitchhikes to Florida, hoping to re-unite with Donnie. [D-Man2010]

{tab=FullCast & Crew}

Produced By:

  • Mark Amin known as executive producer
  • Thomas L. Carter known as co-producer
  • Joe Dain known as producer
  • Pascal Franchot known as producer
  • Damian Harris known as producer
  • Stephen Hens known as co-producer
  • Jason Koren known as co-producer
  • Todd Olsson known as executive producer
  • R.D. Robb known as producer
  • Nicholas D. Wrathall known as line producer

FullCast & Crew:

  • Gillian Jacobs known as Leslie
  • John Malkovich known as Michael
  • Ryan Simpkins known as Young Leslie
  • Tom Arnold known as Alex
  • Kevin Zegers known as Frank
  • Jermaine Scooter Smith known as Young Donnie (as Jermaine 'Scooter' Smith)
  • Harold Perrineau known as Orlando
  • Jeremy Sisto known as Jimmy
  • Raynold Gideon known as Judge Feeney
  • Cornelia Guest known as Mrs. Feeney
  • Natalie May known as Judge's Daughter
  • Ben Lin known as Pa
  • Alice Lo known as Ma
  • Evan Ross known as Donnie
  • Landall Goolsby known as Blackberry John
  • Shontae Saldana known as Baby Loco
  • Max Van Ville known as Surf
  • Kyle Gallner known as Ratboy
  • Troy Ruptash known as Motel John
  • Shiloh Fernandez known as Cooper
  • Angel Lacy known as Waitress
  • Peta Wilson known as Sarah
  • Evan Peters known as Rachel / Brian
  • Carlie Westerman known as Monica
  • Jeff Swarthout known as Gay John
  • Jeff Feringa known as Booster Lady
  • Jim Cody Williams known as Leslie's John
  • Alexis Jackson known as Mia
  • Raphael Sbarge known as Mr. Whitehead
  • Lisa Akey known as Mrs. Whitehead
  • Gracie Sbarge known as Gracie Whitehead
  • Ty Simpkins known as Dylan Whitehead
  • Michelle Rodriguez known as Lucy (Woman in Car)
  • Mike Ball known as Lifeguard (uncredited)
  • Rik Baron known as Pimp (uncredited)
  • Mike Cochrane known as Truck Driver at Truck Stop (uncredited)
  • Jahkeim Cromedy known as Young Male in the Park (uncredited)
  • Reedy Gibbs known as Nurse (uncredited)
  • Alex Solowitz known as Mohawk (uncredited)
  • Haleigh Ward known as Girl at the Swimming Pool (uncredited)

..{tab=Supporting Department}Makeup Department:

  • Garnett Burk known as key hair stylist
  • Garnett Burk known as key makeup artist
  • Jessica Elbaum known as hair stylist
  • Amy Willingham known as hair/makeup assistant

Art Department:

  • Mario N. Bonassin known as art assistant
  • Willie L. Brown III known as art department assistant
  • Natasha Giraldo known as art coordinator
  • Thyra Heder known as storyboard artist
  • Johanna Jenkins known as illustrator
  • Matthew Karam known as lead man
  • Javier Montufar known as art assistant
  • Jesse Poupis known as art assistant
  • Jesse Poupis known as lead construction
  • Joe Price known as property master (as J.R. Price)
  • Ashley Ramirez known as art assistant
  • Kendra Rasmussen known as art assistant
  • Alejandro Romero known as property master


Production Companies:

  • Station3
  • Fastback Pictures
  • Shoot Productions
  • La Nuit Americaine
  • Sobini Films

Other Companies:

  • Central Casting  extras casting
  • Chop House Edit  titles
  • Film Emporium  insurance by
  • Hollywood Camera  camera equipment provided by
  • NovaStar Digital  post-production sound services
  • Precision Film Tools  grip and lighting equipment
  • Sonic Magic  sound post-production


  • City Lights Pictures (2008) (USA) (theatrical)
  • Sobini Films (2007) (non-USA) (all media)
  • VVS Films (2009) (Canada) (all media)

..{tab=Other Stuff}Visual Effects by:

  • Nathan Adams known as post coordinator
  • Stephen Hens known as post production supervisor
  • Michael Shelton known as visual effects producer

Release Date:

  • Germany 9 February 2008 (Berlin International Film Festival)
  • UK 2 October 2008 (Raindance Film Festival)
  • France 11 October 2008 (Lyon Festival Hors-Écran)
  • USA 21 November 2008 (New York City, New York)
  • Canada 24 March 2009 (DVD premiere)
  • USA 24 March 2009 (DVD premiere)

MPAA: Rated R for disturbing content involving sexual exploitation of a child, language, sexual content and some drug use


Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

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