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Review: Alice, Darling

February 2, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The Canadian co-production Alice, Darling is a drama starring Anna Kendrick in the titular role of Alice, a career-oriented young woman in Toronto living with her emotionally abusive partner, a visual artist named Simon (Charlie Carrick).

On the surface, Alice seems to have an enviable relationship, as she accompanies Simon to his gallery opening. But we observe glimpses of his controlling nature through the way that she nervously checks her phone when out with friends, sending him constant updates and photos so she doesn’t get in trouble for being out too long, and instantly capitulates to his desires when she is with him.

When Alice goes for a week away at a cottage with her two friends Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) to celebrate Tess’ milestone birthday, she has to lie to Simon about it being a business trip in order to get away. But, as Alice’s mental health starts to deteriorate, the trip turns into somewhat of an intervention as her friends start to realize the degree to which she is trapped in her relationship.

The feature directorial debut of Mary Nighy (daughter of actor Bill), Alice, Darling is a low-key character study of someone suffocating in an emotionally abusive relationship. The screenplay by Alanna Francis makes the somewhat clever structural choice of getting the three friends to the cottage pretty quick, and peeling back the layers of Alice and Simon’s relationship mostly through glimpses and flashbacks. While his presence looms large, Simon is barely even in the film, which works to both diffuse the character of some of his power while also showing how he continues to negatively impact Alice’s mental well-being even when they aren’t physically together.

The film works best when the focus is purely on Kendrick’s Alice, but is held back by its paper thin supporting characters, with Sophie and Tess barely being fleshed out as anything more than a means to an end to get the main character out of her relationship. There is a hinted at backstory involving a falling out between Alice and Tess that feels severely under-explored. The film also raises questions about if her friends are actually making the best choices in terms of trying to help, such as Tess hiding Alice’s phone and forcing her out on the water on a paddle board when Alice is clearly panicking.

A prominent subplot about a missing girl in cottage country also feels underdeveloped, with Alice joining the daily search parties. This causes more of a rift with Tess, who wants the trip to be about her. The film at times feels like it wants to bleed over into being more of a thriller, without really committing to it, and the brief 89 minute run time keeps Alice, Darling from going as in-depth as it needs to in terms of its characters and themes.

But Kendrick is genuinely very good here, initially keeping much of Alice’s trauma and anxiety internal when she is around other people, and allowing it to come out through hair-pulling and panic attacks when she is alone. Kendrick impressively handles the inevitable emotional breakdown required for the character, and we do root for her to break free. While’s it’s easy to wish that the film around her was stronger, Alice, Darling is still worth seeing for her.

Alice, Darling opens in select theatres on February 3rd, and will also be available on a variety of Digital and VOD platforms. It’s being distributed in Canada by Elevation Pictures.

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