When looking for love, we all hope to find a great partner who’s there for us, supports us, and lets us be ourselves. Someone we shouldn’t change for or shouldn’t fear at all. Sadly, not everyone is that lucky, which again becomes clear in “Alice, Darling” by director Mary Nighy. The movie tackles female abuse in a toxic relationship, which is certainly a strong subject for a debut film. Despite the unbalanced storyline, “Alice, Darling” handles this subject with a lot of grace and sensitivity.
Alice (Anna Kendrick) seems to have it all. An important job, lovely and supporting friends Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) and a husband, Simon (Charlie Carrick), who wants to be with her all the time. However, when you look closer, her life isn’t what it seems. Every time she meets up with her friends, she finds a reason to leave early, mainly after receiving a bunch of texts from Simon, which is undoubtedly an indicator that something dark is happening behind the scenes.
Soon it becomes clear what exactly that is: Simon is extremely abusive and makes Alice feel worthless. Alice has to do everything she can to keep him happy and not upset, even if that includes lying about her upcoming holiday with her friends. During the women-only holiday, Alice might be physically away from Simon, but mentally, he’s still with her all the time.
He controls her thoughts by excessive texting, begging her to come home from her ‘work trip’, and Alice’s anxiety is going through the roof. Not only because of the numerous texts but also because she’s being confronted with a missing girl case in the town. People think the girl was abducted by someone she loved, making Alice question her own relationship with Simon. Gradually, Alice opens up to her friends and realizes she might be in danger too. Will she finally be able to break free, or will the strings between her and Simon be too hard to cut?
When you bring a story about an abusive relationship to the big screen, the balance must be right. The movie can’t be overplayed because then it might be unbelievable or underplayed because then the story loses its impact. Sadly, the balance in this movie isn’t 100% right. The abusive relationship is pushed to the background when the three friends spend their first days at the cottage, making the movie feel a bit flat.
However, once Alice feels Simon’s presence again, the film picks up and becomes as intriguing as it was at the beginning. The several flashbacks show that Simon is clearly what you expect from an abusive boyfriend: A true gentleman in public, a monster in private. Despite the ending feeling a bit too staged and the unnecessary storyline about the missing girl, “Alice, Darling” is still a powerful portrayal of being in an abusive relationship.
This is mainly due to the impressive performance by Kendrick. While many of us know her from comedic roles such as “Pitch Perfect” and “Noelle”, she did put herself on the acting map thanks to her powerful Oscar-nominated performance in “Up in the Air”. With “Alice, Darling”, Kendrick shows us that she’s again ready for more dramatic roles.
This movie probably felt extremely close to home, as Kendrick was in a toxic relationship herself, resulting in an honest, emotional and true-to-life performance. Those hairpulling scenes are highly effective, and Alice’s heightened anxiety and nerves spat off the screen, thanks to Kendrick’s mesmerizing acting.
Both Horn (“Sugar Daddy”, “Possessor”) and Mosaku (“His House”, “Lovecraft Country”) give sensational performances too. They make you feel Tess and Sophie’s warmth for Alice during the few uplifting moments and shine when the scenes become much darker and more serious. They give the women who stand up against male violence a powerful voice and are undoubtedly what keeps this movie alive.
Yes, there are a few problems with the story; think of the awkward missing girl subplot, but “Alice, Darling” still succeeds in carefully bringing such a delicate topic to life. The movie will certainly get the conversation about abusive relationships going, mainly thanks to the intense performance by Kendrick.
20th January 2023
THE QUICK SELL
A young woman trapped in an abusive relationship becomes the unwitting participant in an intervention staged by her two closest friends.