As Emeritus Professor and distinguished research fellow of my own personal University of Advanced Studies of Anna Kendrick movies, it’s a pleasure to say that the Pitch Perfect star has being developing her craft as a serious performer, and Alice, Darling is probably her most mature work to date. Chiming with the MeToo era, it’s a sensitive and carefully constructed drama from BabeNation films; the director and writer are female, and the POV is very much a female one. Kendrick plays a woman who is being controlled by her partner, and that’s a very of-the-moment scenario for 2023.
Alice is a bright young woman with a boyfriend problem; not that she can’t get one, but rather that Simon (Charlie Carrick) is gaslighting her. He’s a pretentious artist, and seems to be fiercely possessive of her; she has to pretend she’s attending a sales convention in Milwaukee to spend the weekend with a couple of gal-pals, the aggressive, confrontational Tess (Kaniehlito Horn) and the more composed Sophie (Womuni Mosaku). Alice’s friends think the world of her, but as Simon’s corrosive influence becomes more obvious, the girls feel that an intervention is in order, and Alice faces an increasingly difficult choice. But can Alice find what it takes to stand up to Simon?
Written by Alanna Francis and directed by Mary Nighy, daughter of Bill, Alice, Darling has a few loose ends; a sub-plot about a search for a missing girl isn’t resolved, although it does thematically link into the key idea of sympathy for a victim. The three central female performances are all excellent, with Horn and Mosaku strong support, allowing Kendrick to offer a nuanced portrayal of a woman who knows better than to allow herself to be manipulated, but can’t seem to allow herself the space to find an escape.
Set in and around Toronto, Alice, Darling is the kind of film that can and should gain awards traction via word of mouth; either way, Kendrick brings a large fan-base from her early, sillier films, and this film should be required watching for anyone who recognises the influence of an over-bearing, if not obsessive partner. Alice, Darling is billed as a thriller, but its rather more a low-key character drama that builds to a satisfying, emotional climax. It’s a small but well-composed little film that brings a serious issue into the sunlight with genuine care.