Studio: Lionsgate Films
Jan 22, 2023
Anna Kendrick delivers an amazing performance in Alice, Darling—quite possibly the best of her career, no less. This information should be conveyed at the start of any review of the film, because it is the core characteristic of this impressive piece of work. The film tells the story of Alice (Kendrick), a woman in her early thirties ostensibly living happily in central Toronto with her English artist boyfriend, Simon (Charlie Carrick). When she and her friend Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) go away with their mutual friend Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) to Sophie’s parents’ country house on the shores of Lake Ontario to celebrate Tess’s 30th birthday, it becomes apparent to Sophie and Tess just how much of a psychological hold Simon exerts over Alice.
Soon after the week-long trip begins, Simon texts Alice requests for her to return home early, and the slender Alice frets that he would not approve whenever she consumes foods that are high in sugar or fat. When she makes simple, human mistakes, Alice admonishes herself for having done “another thing wrong.” Although these behaviors feel unproblematic to Alice herself, they serve as immediate red flags to Tess and Sophie, who set out to make their friend realize that she is embroiled in a deeply controlling and psychologically abusive relationship.
Alice, Darling has attracted a considerable degree of pre-release publicity concerning Kendrick’s revelation that she drew upon her own experiences of being in an emotionally abusive relationship when playing the film’s title character. Whilst critical appraisal of the film should not be influenced by this information to a disproportionate extent, it makes total sense that a performance as powerful as that delivered by Kendrick here is partly the result of her own unfortunate personal experience. Praise must go to Carrick, who does a great job of playing Charlie as somebody who genuinely views himself as having Alice’s best interests at heart, and who appears on the surface to be a model boyfriend.
Mary Nighy also performs her directorial duties with distinction, which is all the more impressive when one considers that this is her first feature. She peels back the layers of Alice’s existence slowly and subtly, sowing the impression in the viewer’s mind during the film’s early scenes when there is outwardly nothing ‘wrong’ with Alice’s life that the obsessiveness and fastidiousness of her beauty routines may be a function of her seeking validation from others (particularly Charlie), rather than her simply wanting to feel satisfied with her own appearance.
This is undoubtedly difficult thematic terrain to navigate, but Nighy and her cast all acquit themselves admirably. As previously said, Kendrick delivers a powerhouse performance as Alice, and her work is ably abetted by Horn’s, Mosaku’s, and Carrick’s respective turns as her friends and abusive partner. It is a damning indictment of our society that so many women are placed in situations similar to that faced by Alice, and Kendrick’s recollections of her own abuse are heart-rending to read, but her drawing upon them has likely helped shape Alice, Darling into a more powerful film than it would have been otherwise. It may not make for uplifting viewing, but its story is well worth telling. The film ultimately shows how valuable friends can be as people who can hold mirrors up to our lives and show us that we have gotten into situations from which we need to extricate ourselves.
Author rating: 8/10