Alice, Darling has the best intentions, and a lot of heart, but really misses the mark in telling the important story that it wants to.
WRITTEN BY BECCA JOHNSON / FEBRUARY 22, 2023
Mary Nighy's feature debut Alice, Darling tells the story of a young woman trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship. When on a break with her two best friends, the pair start to realise that Alice may need their help, and boyfriend Simon might not be what he seems. With tremendous performances and important exploration into the impact abuse can have, Alice, Darling is worth the watch. However, it doesn't quite do enough for the story being told, which deserves a more poignant message.
Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) is a talented actress, so it's no surprise that her performance here is great. Alice is a very different role for Kendrick, who often stars in comedies, as this time she really gets to explore a characters emotions and change in personality due to the abusive events that occur. Wunmi Mosaku (Loki) is also fantastic as best friend Sophie, who attempts to help Alice but in a way that lets her disclose her experiences at her discretion. Kaniehtiio Horn gives a notable performance as friend Tess, who finds herself and Alice drifting away from each other due to Alice's severe change in personality. She battles with being hurt by Alice's lack of effort, but understanding of her situation when the truth unfolds. The story is full of emotion, and it's the performances from all involved that make it so believable and heartbreaking.
Alice, Darling opts for exploring emotional abuse in a more nuanced way. That doesn't mean it doesn't have it's fair share of scenes that are difficult to get through, as we definitely get to experience Simon's (Charlie Carrick) manipulative way with words. However, it puts the focus on Alice, and the effect his constant awful behaviour has on her. From self image to friendships, the script shows us every way that experiencing this hidden abuse can break us down and make us feel weak, unimportant and little. It also tries to be a tale of friendship, highlighting how important friends can be during times like this, and how we should always cherish those around us who bring joy, laughter and happy memories.
Although it's a welcome change to see abuse explored in this way, it doesn't always work in the movies favour. It is a little bland, and if it wasn't for it's short run-time, it may have teetered on boring territory. The slow, character/friendship driven approach is fine, but the script doesn't quite do enough to warrant said approach. For a powerhouse of a story, it really lacks substance, and it only packs a true punch in its final few moments. The fault is largely with the marketing, as the trailer and synopsis lead audiences to believe this is a psychological thriller – that is definitely not the case. It's a meandering story that chooses to focus on quieter moments. It has the best intentions, and a lot of heart, but really misses the mark in telling the important story that it wants to.
Fans of Kendrick will enjoy Alice, Darling for her performance alone; it may be one of her best, and allows her to explore her range. She carries the movie with emotion and heart, proving her talent once again. It's also interesting to see a movie that explores emotional abuse, rather than physical or sexual that scripts tend to opt for. As important as the story is, the script does not do enough to make us believe this. This movie is full of cliché's and inaction, honing in on the wrong elements of Alice's story. It relies on minimalism, and whilst using it well, it may not have been the best approach for a story like this.