A slow-burning intense relationship drama that feels less is more.
A directorial debut for Mary Nighy, we review the 2022 film Alice, Darling, which does contain minor spoilers.
Thematically uncomfortable and frayed at the edges, Alice, Darling is an uncompromising study of an unhealthy relationship that does not shy away from the complex nature of domestic abuse in its many forms. The dread and the oppressive tone are a slow-burning fuse, and many are saying this is Anna Kendrick‘s finest performance, so let’s have a closer look at Anna, Darling.
Alice, Darling Review and Plot Summary
Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick stars in this tense psychological drama as Alice, a woman that seems close to the edge due to her psychologically abusive artist boyfriend, Simon. When the chance of a vacation with two close girlfriends arrives, Alice has to face the nature of what has been happening to her, as her friends are becoming increasingly aware of her situation and are not afraid to tell her some home truths. Eventually, Alice begins to take steps to escape from the vice-like manipulation of Simon, a brave choice that does not please her boyfriend, who seems capable of anything.
This is a directorial debut for Mary Nighy, and if the name sounds familiar, it is because Mary is the daughter of Bill Nighy, who should definitely be in line for an Oscar after his performance in little-seen screen gem Living. Anna Kendrick is the Alice of the title, and Charlie Carrick plays the smooth Simon, her boyfriend, and the focus of the film is the abusive relationship that Alice is trapped in.
Alice has the chance to get away for a friend’s birthday but has to lie to Simon so it can happen, and in the background of the main narrative, we are made aware of the disappearance of another girl that is referenced and reported on TV. The retreat away becomes more of an intervention for Alice as her friends begin to see the unease behind the relationship, and the film slowly lulls you into its premise. What starts off as a seemingly normal setup starts to boil over, and we are allowed glimpses into the darker and more sinister nature of Simon’s behavior.
Alice is clearly living on her nerves, and Kendrick conveys the anxiety and concern of the character in the way she reacts to the smallest of actions, like receiving a text message. Alice’s unease starts to manifest itself in more physical ways; she has a habit of playing with her hair, which horrifically leads to her literally pulling her own hair out, but it is never done in a gratuitous way or with any over-the-top melodrama.
Nighy manages to veer away from creating the sort of scenes you might expect from a film of this nature, avoiding major clashes and hyper-realistic confrontations, instead aiming for a more grounded atmosphere and building a feeling of true dread.
Is the movie Alice, Darling good?
Quietly disconcerting and carefully sinister, this film actually takes a leaf out of Simon’s playbook, manipulating the viewer into a slow descent of Alice’s living nightmare. This is the kind of film that will resonate more with people who may have found themselves in a similar position and be able to empathize with the lead. The film is a fantastic debut for Nighy, but there are moments where you may expect more to happen, and it never does.
Thematically this movie is for people who can relate to and recognize the situation, but the gradual reveal, although masterfully achieved, may not be for cinema-goers that are looking for more meat on the bone. The trailer and premise may lead some to expect a more conventional thriller, and the subplot that is introduced may also hint towards a more catastrophic final act, and this misstep may account for a somewhat unsatisfactory downbeat ending. There is a lot to enjoy here, but you may have to be in a certain mood or circumstance, to be really engaged by the narrative.
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