- Hamish Hart
Alice, Darling (2023) Review
DIRECTORIAL debuts, like most things in life, are hard to get right first time around. The ability to learn from your mistakes is what separates good directors from legendary ones, so that bears the question: what happens when your first attempt at a movie is good? Daughter of Bill Nighy and first-time director Mary Nighy is now in the fortunate position to learn from her "mistakes" after her surprisingly-effective, albeit condensed, debut feature.
Unknowingly trapped in an abusive relationship by her sociopathic boyfriend Simon (Charlie Carrick), socially-isolated woman Alice (Anna Kendrick) is invited to a secluded cabin in the woods by her best friends Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) for Tess' birthday. However, what begins as a relaxing week between friends soon turns into a much-needed intervention for Alice as her childhood friends begin questioning whether Simon is best for Alice's mental and physical well-being.
Despite being less than 90 minutes in length, the diminished runtime of Alice, Darling manages to work in its favour, especially considering the lack of directing experience director Mary Nighy possesses. However, don't let the fact this is a directorial debut fool you: Mary Nighy makes full use of this taut thriller to produce a systematic, abusive "love" story which races by in all the right ways. By having majority of the film take place in the secluded regions of a cabin in the woods, it forces viewers to become emotionally-attached to our central protagonist of Alice, an innocent woman oblivious to the abuse caused by her boyfriend Simon, who despite being absent for much of the movie, remains a lingering presence thanks to flashbacks and parting shots depicted in Alice's ever-changing mind. This depiction of Simon was a brilliant decision by director Nighy as it removed the possibility of Simon becoming an overbearing villain while also giving audiences a view into the psyche of Alice and how her recollections from the past truly affect the isolated protagonist.
Smaller casts are often said to be easier to manage, and that statement couldn't be more correct in Alice, Darling. Mary Nighy directs each cast member to a wonderful performance, with the acting from Alice's best friends Tess and Sophie, Horn and Mosaku respectively, being integral components to why her eventual awakening is made all the more satisfying. Charlie Carrick, the actor behind Alice's boyfriend, also delivered a compelling performance, encompassing everything needed to be as unlikeable as humanely possible; down to the subtle smirks and change in vocal tones. But at the end of the day, a movie like Alice, Darling wouldn't work if the title character failed to deliver, but thankfully Anna Kendrick proved all her critics wrong by showing that her Oscar nomination all those years ago was fully-warranted.
One of the reasons Anna Kendrick decided to take on an indie-feeling movie like this was due to an abusive relationship she recently opened up about, and how a part of herself "was lost for a long time" and that she's "still getting it back".
The toll in which the Oscar-nominated actress took is clearly visible in this eerily-beautiful performance, with Anna Kendrick being given full-freedom to showcase her immense talent and her personal experience with abusive relationships. Kendrick proves that not all relationships end in physical scars, clearly demonstrating the pain and suffering her titular character is going through on a day-to-day basis through subtle motions such as hair pulling and twisting, to not-so subtle motions like nearly drowning herself to recover a supposedly invaluable pendent belonging to Simon.
If there were ever a movie that expertly showcases Anna Kendrick's outstanding ability as an actress, Alice, Darling can be classed as a necessity in that region. Mary Nighy's directorial debut may be exceptionally dull in certain areas, but honest performances and a well-composed score make up for the smallest of errors. This film will not be everybody's cup of tea, but if you're looking for a thriller that is both competent and compelling, Alice, Darling is a slow burn that highlights why friendships are often the most important type of relationships.