Alice, Darling  (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Mary Nighy, Canada/US, 2022, 89 mins

Cast:  Anna Kendrick, Charlie Carrick, Kaniehtiio Horn, Wunmi Mosaku

Review by Carol Allen

Anna Kendrick is the Alice of the title, playing a young woman, who is the victim of an abusive relationship.  And very good she is too. 

Alice is living with Simon (Charlie Carrick), a handsome, up and coming artist.  From the outside they look like the perfect couple.   But we realise something is wrong through Alice’s constantly placatory manner when she is with him and her still nervous manner when she is not.   When he complains that “the right people” didn’t come to the opening of his latest exhibition, there is fear in her eyes as she tries to reassure him.  She has a nervous habit of pulling out strands of her hair.  Her eyes are watchful, ever ready to spot trouble and evade it.

Her two lifelong best friends Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) realise something is wrong when they manage to get her to go on a rare evening out with them without Simon.   They persuade her to go on a vacation weekend with them to remote cabin in Canada owned by Sophie’s family.   Alice manages to get away by lying to Simon that it is a business trip and off the three go for an all girls experience in the wild, in the course of which Alice with the help of her pals rediscovers herself.

The establishment of the relationship between Alice and Simon is very good.   There is no physical violence at all but there is an uneasy feeling of tension between them, a fear that if she doesn’t keep him sweet, something awful could happen.  The central vacation section of the film is not so effective, though the Canadian scenery looks great.

The contrast between Alice’s friends is good – warm and embracing Sophie and the rather brash Tess – but their ultimate effect on Alice, how their support restores her to being once more the woman she really is, isn’t that interesting.  It’s not helped by a distracting sub plot about a local young woman who appears to have been abducted, perhaps murdered which seems to be attempting to turn the film into a horror movie rather than a psychological drama. 

Simon’s constant text messages to Alice near the beginning of the trip keep him initially present but when Alice is separated from her phone, enabling her to confide more openly to the others about her relationship, the film loses much of its dramatic tension.

 It’s almost a relief when Simon reappears late in the day in an attempt to reclaim his power over Alice.  The dramatic pace increases and we can then see the change in her as she takes back her power.

As a feminist power parable, this is a bit of damp squib.  Well worth seeing though for Kendrick’s nuanced performance and also Carrick, making the most of his more limited screen time.