Alice, Darling Review – TIFF 2022

Alice, Darling Review - TIFF 2022
Alice, Darling Review - TIFF 2022 1
Alice, Darling
IMDB: LINK
Director(s): Mary Nighy
Actor(s): Anna Kendrick, Kaniehtiio Horn, Wunmi Mosaku
Film Genre(s): Drama , Thriller
Running Time: 89 min
CGM Editors Choice

There is something to be said for a film that can visualize an internal struggle successfully, and Alice, Darling not only did it, but did it well. Premiering at TIFF 2022, Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto was packed for a film about abuse and friendship.  

Though we have seen plenty of films depicting abuse in the past, most opt for the obvious, in your face, physical violence. What writer Alanna Francis focused on was the kind of domestic abuse we don’t see: mental, emotional torture. What’s more, is that someone you know is likely a victim, or maybe a perpetrator of this sort of abuse. People suffer silently, making excuses for their abusers, and blaming themselves. 

“There is something to be said for a film that can visualize an internal struggle successfully, and Alice, Darling not only did it, but did it well.”

Alice, Darling follows Alice (Anna Kendrick), her two best friends Tess and Sophie (Kaniehtiio Horn, Wunmi Mosaku), and her partner Simon (Charlie Carrick). The friends convince Alice to go away with them for a week to a lakeside cottage. It’s here we see that Alice has grown apart from her friends, and bit-by-bit they slowly learn that Simon has been controlling, verbally abusing, shaming and gaslighting Alice.   

The story starts slowly, introducing you to behaviours that seem strange, but not “that bad”. Alice is practicing conversations, stressing about food, time with friends, and texts from Simon. Kendrick brings a subdued version of herself to the role. Underneath, you can see that bits of quirkiness and light still exist, but she has pushed them so far down that her friends no longer recognize her. Tension is high between the women, and it isn’t until later that any of them—including Alice—really understands why. 

Simon has convinced Alice that everyone but him is the problem. She is gaslit into believing she has changed, grown, so her friends don’t understand her anymore, made to believe that she has to starve to stay thin, and can’t move a muscle without Simon’s say so. Carrick, though intimidating, didn’t bring the charisma that I think is needed for this type of torture to make sense.  

This falls perhaps to the writing, or possibly even direction. Part of what makes these abusers so dangerous is that they give their victims something they feel like they can’t live without. “But he loves me” is often spoken, and there needs to be an answer to why a victim might believe that.  I felt I needed Simon to dive into both sides of that character more, the suave and evil. I believe they were trying to make him charming, but I needed to see more. Perhaps the beginning of the relationship before he showed his true colours, or even small intimate moments where he “love bombs” Alice rather than hurts her.  

Alice, Darling is also a story about friendship and in that, the trials and tribulations of growing apart, trying to protect someone you love, and not knowing how to ask for help.”

I have seen a little of myself in every one of these characters. The friend that understands, the friend that lashes out, the woman who is made small and the man who wants only control. Alice, Darling is a film that will have everyone taking a close look at relationships they’ve been in or are in. Alanna Francis touched on forms of abuse big and small, obvious and not so: Rape, that “isn’t really rape” because she didn’t say no, having to check in constantly, and being made to feel guilty for having friends, being isolated from friends and family. 

Everyone involved in Alice, Darling understood how important the film was. During the live Q&A after the premiere, the cast and director Mary Nighy talked about how the cast bonded over their own accounts of abuse. The general consensus was that this happens far more than anyone knows, and it is so much more difficult than “why didn’t they leave?” 

Nighy left so many things in the film open to interpretation, and I believe each person is going to fill those gaps with their own experience. For instance, a scene where Simon places a newspaper on the table. I saw it as a threat, my friend thought it was to display how callous he was. An awkward sex scene, some saw it as Alice trying to take back her power, others saw it as her trying to get it over with to get out of the situation.  

There is no checklist for abuse to be considered abuse. Some leave scars on the outside, others on the inside. Nighy managed to let each viewer relate to the experience in their own way, because no two traumas are the same. She also created two entirely separate worlds between the city and the lake. With Simon, Alice is rigid, the city is cold and grey. With her friends, nature is lush and colourful. 

Alice, Darling is going to start a conversation, a long overdue one.”

Alice, Darling is also a story about friendship and in that, the trials and tribulations of growing apart, trying to protect someone you love, and not knowing how to ask for help. The trio of women come across very bonded, even when Alice seems miles away. Horn and Mosaku almost form a good cop/bad cop scenario. Sophie has a gentler approach, giving Alice space and time, whereas Tess won’t give Alice any slack, and demands answers. The balance between the two friends is very important, and the bond between all three women was evident on screen and in person. 

I could go on and on about Alice, Darling and all the abusive notes it hits, or the different interpretations of the imagery. Francis and Nighy came together to create a truly beautiful film about something so incredibly ugly that almost everyone will be able to identify with it in some way. Alice, Darling is going to start a conversation, a long overdue one. 

Final Thoughts

REVIEW SCORE

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