Abuse comes in many shapes and forms, in Mary Nighy’s psychological drama thriller Alice, Darling. Anna Kendrick stars as a woman trapped in an abusive gaslight relationship on a brink of a break down.
They say you should step out of your safety zone every so often and challenge yourself with something a little different. Kendrick maybe more known for her Pitch Perfect films and romcoms. Up In The Air also starring George Clooney proved the actress can deliver something dramatic. Nighy’s directorial debut feature takes the actress into some truly dark places. In return we get a stellar, heartbreaking performance making this film worth a look.
This type of film don’t always make it to the big screen, usually the small the usual destination. Roman Polanski’s Repulsion is one of the early flicks to show abusive relationships on the screen. Nearly 60 year’s on, society are no better, if anything it’s possibly got worse. Much of that abuse has been in the public eye, do we selfishly ignore or it? Or even realise it’s abusive? In Alice, Darling the abuse chews away at the mental health of Alice. This has a domino affect on it’s victim, leading to psychical harm.
Things start with Alice (Kendrick) who is heading to a drinks date with her two best friends Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku). Before she even arrived we can see Alice is nervous , wrapping her hair round her finger. At the bar she’s constantly checking her mobile for text messages, but who is control of her nerves? That is revealed in the next scene, it’ s Simon (Charlie Carrick) Alice’s boyfriend. After inviting both her friends Sophie turns up to Simon’s gallery event. Simon is an artist and we can see he’s clearly possessive, despite the big turnout Simon is disappointed.
Meanwhile Alice reluctantly agreed to go on a week’s holiday with her friends. The cabin they are heading to is Sophie’s and the week they are away will also be Tess birthday. In order for Alice to go she lies to Simon saying the week away is for work reasons. Things start fine, slowly her friends start to notice things are not well. Alice seems to be constantly updating Simon in what’s going on. Her anxiety becomes even more evident when she doesn’t want to miss a text or call. Raising tensions between her friends when Alice becomes very erratic. Her friends don’t know what to do or even know what’s going on. As Alice starts to open up, they get an unexpected visitor…Simon.
The selling point of Alice, Darling is Anna Kendrick’s performance. The actress recently got herself out of a recent abusive relationship. This ended just before she signed onto this film, it feels the perfect vehicle to release that pain she suffered. What she gives feels honest, impassioned and genuine.
But how can Alice meet such a creep like Simon? Could that be through Tess? Like Simon she is also an artist, the difference between the two he is established, she’s not. Maybe one time Tess may have liked him too, both clashed. At times at the cabin you could see Alice and Tess friendship had some fragility. Alanna Francis script doesn’t expand Simon / Tess not even in a flashback, leaving the viewer to assume
At first the friendship between our protagonist and her friends didn’t feel as close as we first believe. That feels a deliberate move from Mary Nighy, who wants to show Alice is slowly distancing herself from her friends becoming a shell of her former self. She wants to put you in Alice’s shoes, experience her controlled life. Inside her head the true Alice is jailed in a cage, screaming for help.
The one thing that didn’t really work was the missing girl plot. It felt contrived, unless it was a metaphor for the real Alice is lost out there please find her. Alice, Darling won’t show you our protagonist before she met Simon. It lives in the now, the toxicity of her relationship, the abuse she takes is subtle and it’s much verbal as it’s physical. A chilling tale that doesn’t try to be melodramatic, keeps things grounded. Look over the missteps we have an empowering film worth watching.
Drama, Thriller | USA, 2022 | 15 | Cinema | 20th January 2023 (UK) | Lionsgate Films | Dir.Mary Nighy | Anna Kendrick, Kaniehtiio Horn, Charlie Carrick, Wunmi Mosaku
This review was originally posted at The Peoples Movies on 22nd January 2023 | Original review link