**Trigger Warning: Alice, Darling involves emotional and psychological abuse.**
There are movies that create such a tense, uncomfortable, but horribly familiar atmosphere for audiences which don’t need to fall into the horror genre but rather into a drama that truly captivates its audience and shakes them to their core. Mary Nighy’s Alice, Darling is a deep dive look into one person’s journey into trying to handle and live with her emotionally abusive partner, and her friends who stage an intervention to save her once they’ve been made aware. Alice, Darling features an emotionally demanding performance from Anna Kendrick which breaks away from her usual bubbly personality and delivers a heart-breaking and -wrenching masterclass of acting.
Before diving right into the review, I wanted to take a moment to talk about an interview that Anna Kendrick did back in September about Alice, Darling and why it was so personal to her and for her to tell this story. This interview was originally posted in People. She shares that she was coming out of a psychologically and emotionally abusive relationship, and believed that her rep sent it to her because they were in the know about the trauma that Kendrick was dealing with. She continues to talk about the fact that when she’s seen movies about abusive and toxic relationships, none of them felt like what was happening to her, but what Alanna Francis penned for Alice, Darling felt more like her own story, making the film a cathartic experience. It is evident that Kendrick’s performance draws a lot from her personal experience as the raw emotion that seeps through it feels too real to not come from a place of deep pain.
The film itself focuses on Alice (Anna Kendrick) as she lies to her partner Simon (Charlie Carrick) about going on a girls’ weekend with her friends Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku). Alice lies to Simon because she knows that he would never allow her to go on said trip, and tells him that it’s a business weekend trip so he would stay back. Right out of the gate the audience is clued into the fact that this relationship is horrifically toxic and detrimental to her mental health and well-being. There is a side story of a missing girl that is also taking place throughout the movie, and there is some ambiguity about what happened to this girl that is certainly deliberate, but the overall movie focuses on Alice’s trauma and how her friends try to help her escape the horrors that live with her.
It should be noted that Alice, Darling could be incredibly triggering for anyone who’s experienced abuse in a relationship and any of the aftermath that comes with that territory. The movie never pulls its punches nor does it decide to hide the fact of what is happening, especially when Alice is on the “escape” with her friends and continuously sees Simon present even though he’s nowhere to be seen. Aside from the clear mental anguish and fear that constantly lives with Alice due to her trauma, it is also pointed out that she is potentially suffering from an eating disorder. The film continuously shows the audience and, moreover, Tess and Sophie, that there is something sinister going on here, all delivered by Alice’s choices, whether it be where she takes a phone call, when she loses a piece of jewelry, her demeanor, and so forth. There is no point throughout Alanna Francis’s script or Mary Nighy’s direction where the movie decides to pull its punches, so the audience doesn’t get to escape the deep discomfort it creates.
With a film like Alice, Darling it would fall apart instantly if the titular character was not giving a tour de force performance. Anna Kendrick, who could arguably be described as the bubbly, creative, lovable character in most of her movies, delivers such a different and stripped-down humanistic performance that just moves its audience. She has done something similar before in The Last Five Years, but, in Alice, Darling, she is a vastly different traumatic character and, with her admittance of drawing from her own personal experience, brings this character a sense of life that wouldn’t be there without that deep personal baseline. There is a level of realism that simply cannot be acted. There is a sense of real trauma that removes all doubt that this can be snapped on and off. Kendrick manages to deliver a performance that resonates so deeply and personally that the audience cannot remove their eyes from her journey unfolding on screen.
However, Anna Kendrick is not alone in her tour de force performance, as she is supported by Wunmi Mosaku and Kaniehtiio Horn in this journey. The journeys of Wunmi’s and Kaniehtiio’s characters throughout the film as they discover the horrors of what is happening to their friend are nothing shy of demoralizing. It is clear in their expressions and their actions that they just feel helpless, and it absolutely eats away at them. They want to do anything they can for their friend, almost feel guilty for not realizing it was happening sooner, and, as is evident in their performances, their hearts are broken and they want their friend to escape the horrific situation she finds herself in, but are unsure how to help. Charlie Carrick plays the villainous psychopath well. As his character has limited screen time, it is what he does with that time that truly shows how sinister and evil his persona truly is. There are moments filled with such vitriol that will surely turn the audience’s stomachs with sheer disgust.
Alice, Darling is the furthest thing from an easy watch. It is hard to watch, but it is important to watch. It boasts incredible performances and a heart-breaking performance from Anna Kendrick that shines a light on the darkness that surrounds emotional and psychological abuse that is not seen as clearly as other forms of abuse and often goes unnoticed. Alice, Darling refuses to hold back its punches, forces its audience to be aware of their surroundings, and asks them to check in on their friends and be there for one another.
In select Los Angeles theaters December 30th, 2022.
In theaters nationwide exclusively at AMC Theatres January 20th, 2023.
For more information, head to Lionsgate’s official Alice, Darling webpage.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.