January 28, 2023

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‘Alice, Darling’ Review: When ‘Love’ Is Really About Control

3 min read

A few minutes into “Alice, Darling,” audiences may be reminded of how 2020’s “The Invisible Man” opened: Anna Kendrick rolls out of bed in the early hours of the morning, on pain of not waking her partner, who we briefly assume is on the run. going on But whereas the Elisabeth Moss vehicle was a monster movie fueled by its abusive-boyfriend backstory, director Mary Nye’s feature debut puts a woman’s difficult exit from a dangerous relationship front and center. It’s a quietly powerful drama about psychological manipulation and loss, earning a year-end qualifier at AMC Sunset 5 in West Hollywood on Dec. 30 before expanding to AMC theaters nationwide on Jan. 20.

In an unnamed town, Alice (Kendrick) arrives late and leaves early from an extra night out with best friends Sophia (Unmi Mosaku) and Tess (Kanihetio Horn). We can tell she’s confused, even scared, hiding in the bathroom to tear her hair — a nervous tic that escalates as the film unfolds. When we first meet the boyfriend he’s gone home early, he seems nice enough. But tiny “off” notes and disturbing mind’s-eye flashbacks soon reveal that successful artist Simon (Charlie Carrick) is a control freak whose nagging self-doubt and other neuroses take their toll on Alice. She undermined her confidence in every way, being simultaneously demanding and belittled, scornful of the slightest attention paid to anyone but herself.

Thus, when the three women organize a lakeside vacation week to celebrate Tess’s 30th birthday, Alice can only get away with lying, telling Simon that she is on a mandatory work trip. Although not physically humiliating, he has created such a disorienting wedge between her and the rest of the world, she can now bring herself to attend this desperately-needed event with trusted friends. Instead, she becomes self-isolating, defensively brushing off their concerns, demonstrating the ways in which she distorts her thinking (especially in regards to food and body image) – meanwhile shutting down her constant, needy text messages.

At about the halfway point here, Alice has an absurd outburst that reveals how much she’s suppressed the growing panic. Soon, she begins to reveal the ugly reality of her domestic situation. But even having his phone taken away by well-heeled friends isn’t enough to keep Simon away.

Alana Francis’ subtle script threads in a subplot about a missing young woman in this rural area, suggesting elements of a murder mystery that we hope may lead into more genre-based territory. This actually proves a red herring; “Alice, Darling” may disappoint those who expect to reach its denouement in a more violent or melodramatic way than the filmmakers intended.

But the focus here is not so much on the object of Alice’s terror as it is on the emotional basis of the friendship Simon (naturally) has done his best to keep her away from, and which may prove her salvation. Although the word “intervention” is never uttered, it is in this movie Indeed Summary: How people who truly love you will risk telling you that you’re only pretending, to your obvious detriment. A destructive codependency is so hard to break, sometimes others must strike the first breaking blow for you.

It’s a strong role for Kendrick, whose character may seem less than fully defined, but then that’s part of the point – Alice’s boyfriend has slyly shed any part of her personality that doesn’t prioritize her. Kanihtio Horn and Unmi Mosaku are both very good as those rare screen things, BFFs with their own inner lives rather than satellites of the protagonist. Carrick is careful not to make Simon an obvious monster. As much as we see of him, he is so charming and attractive that we understand how Alice is sucked into a relationship by degrees like a slow-acting poison.

If the film could have used a stronger sense of catharsis towards the end, Nighy and Francis would do well to exercise such judicious pre-restraint. This keeps “Alice, Darling” from feeling any conflict, the silent concern in Kendrick’s every gesture maintaining enough tension despite the lack of overt thriller devices. The thoughtful assemblage is especially complemented by Wayne Pallett’s piano-based original score and Mike McLaughlin’s handsome but understated cinematography.

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