TLDR: Alice, Darling (2023)
Anna Kendrick leads Mary Nighy's debut feature.
by Jess Hagy
Plot: A woman stuck in an abusive relationship goes on vacation with friends to a cabin. When her secrets come to light, she finds herself in a staged intervention.
Direction: This film is Mary Nighy's feature debut and as a debut it’s strong. Some moments felt a bit formulaic, but with a story so layered and dynamic, it’s a strong feat emotionally. Nighy’s approach didn’t feel preachy or like a statement - which is a trap some depictions of abuse can fall into. The characters were grounded and flawed, despite their relationships, healthy or not. There were nuances (whether written into the script or added while filming) that aren’t depicted very often. These nuances are usually an aspect of trauma but are often overlooked, so it was interesting to see them represented here. They added another layer to Alice as a character and added to the suspense of something bubbling to the surface within.
Screenplay: The writing of the main storyline was well done and didn’t feel overbearing. It felt like reading a novel. One of the friend’s dialogue was written in a way where she never quite says the right thing and comes off as aggressive. With her dialogue, there seems to be added subtext to possibly shoot down Alice or at least try to get her to understand that she is not herself ever since getting into this toxic relationship. This dynamic was refreshing and felt authentic because, in most depictions, the friends of the victim are usually the ones with the wisdom and have these brilliant nuggets of advice. But in real life that is just not the case. Others outside the abusive relationship can be affected and can come off as passive to the victim even though they know it’s not their fault. It’s also refreshing that this didn’t end their friendship. The friend group all understood and accepted each other for who they are because they know they are loved by one another.
Performances: As an audience member, you can tell right away that this story meant a lot to Anna Kendrick. Because of that, she gives a very emotional performance and does not shy away from showing us her deepest vulnerabilities. The actors playing her friends gave strong and layered performances as well with the most notable being Wunmi Mosaku, who gives a silent but compelling portrayal of the friend stuck in the middle, who just wants peace. Mosaku has been more prevalent in projects recently and this viewer looks forward to seeing her work more and watching her grow.
Cinematography: The use of cinematography was well done and effective. There were a lot of close-ups of Kendrick’s Alice. This made her seem like she was under a microscope, which is how her character felt throughout much of the film. The more anxious moments were filmed handheld making the audience feel unstable and nervous themselves about what’s happening.
Best Moment: There weren’t too many “fun” moments in this movie given the subject matter, so the best moment was the lighthearted sequence of the three friends going for drinks and setting off fireworks to celebrate one of their birthdays. It’s one of the few moments where we see them all so genuinely happy and enjoying each other’s company. This moment helped with finding some relief and knowing that we can find happiness even in the tougher times with the ones who truly love us.
Imaginary Accolade: Best use of a '90s throwback song
Is it too long? At exactly 90 minutes long, this film is just the right length. The pacing makes it feel longer, but that is the “suspense” aspect of it.
See it in cinemas or wait to stream: This film handles very tough subject matters and personally made me anxious, so for that very reason I’d say wait to stream it. That way you can be in the comfort of your own space with the ability to take a break if need be. (Editor's note: For those choosing to see it in theaters, it is exclusively playing at AMC.)
Rating: 3 chocolate chip pancakes out of 5
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