ALICE, DARLING (2023)
Release Date: 01/20/23 [AMC Theatres/Paramount+]
"A young woman trapped in an abusive relationship becomes the unwitting participant in an intervention staged by her two closest friends."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
Water surrounds you. You try to peer through the hazy green-blue light, but around you sits nothing but darkness. Something glides by you. It’s a woman, sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss below.
Mary Nighy’s theatrical directorial debut, Alice, Darling, is a film about drowning. About isolation, desperation, and suffocating in a world where the act of breathing is exhausting. The film is claustrophobic, deeply intimate, no, too intimate, and yet you can only sit still and let the anxiety pour out of the screen and into your body. Like many 22’ projects, it's focused on shining a light on the horrific experience that approximately 40% of women go through in the modern age: Intimate partner violence. Films like Men and A Wounded Fawn come to mind, and while these are fine films, these are stories about women that were told by men.
It makes it special when Mary Nighy tackles the same topic, showing interest in the overlooked aspects of the topic and making her protagonist the sole focus of the film. Alice, Darling is special because we sit with Alice (Anna Kendrick) and feel everything she feels. Revenge isn’t the solution to the pain. Simon (Charlie Carrick) doesn’t monologue about why he is a nagging, abusive partner. There is no easy, forced path to healing. Even her friends, Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) have trouble reaching out to Alice. And when the audience has to sit through this experience, it becomes transcendent and real. This film is about the journey to healing. It’s about reaching out to someone who is drowning, and finding a way to show them the light so that they can swim to the surface.
Horn and Mosaku are wonderful in their respective roles as Tess and Sophie. Their performances form the emotional pillars that relieve the tension threatening to burst out of the screen. The source of that tension is Carrick’s horrifying work as Simon, Alice’s controlling artist boyfriend. Every line is delivered as though it's a promise of something worse to come. When combined with the stellar editing and sound design, it's enough to push the audience to a nervous breakdown. And that is so perfectly captured by Anna Kendrick. This may be her best work yet. Whether it's her portrayal of the visible ticks of self doubt and anxiety plaguing Alice, or her unnatural, enforced stillness when in uncomfortable situations, it’s a stellar performance that captures something real, and terrifying.
All this surrounds a script that is centered on Alice’s character. More time is spent with her alone than with her friends, and it’s powerful. The dialogue captures the double-speak of uncomfort, and just as easily captures the in-jokes that develop between true friends. This is all enhanced by the pacing and editing, which at times moves too fast, and at others feels drawn out to eternity. And that criticism is one of Alice, Darling’s greatest strengths. It captures a headspace and transports the audience to that emotional place effortlessly. It makes familiar spaces tense, and the moments alone refreshing. It’s powerfully visualized by director of photography Mike McLaughlin, who frames each moment to put us into that headspace too.
That is the power of Mary Nighy’s Alice, Darling. Every beat of the film is solely to service Alice and to effectively tell her story of survival. If you can handle the subject matter, I highly recommend the film.