Actress Mary Nighy makes her feature-length debut as a director with Alice, Darling. Written by Alana Francis, with Mark Van de Ven serving as story editor, the intense drama stars the incomparable and beloved Anna Kendrick as Alice. She has a job she seems to enjoy, two caring best friends, and a handsome significant other who speaks with an accent. From the outside looking in, Alice seemingly has a perfect life.
Unfortunately, things are never that simple. Alice’s longtime partner, Simon (Charlie Carrick), is a mentally abusive control freak. He constantly demeans her, making Alice feel as if she’s nothing without him. It is so bad that Alice lies to Simon about going away with Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) for Tess’ birthday. On their girls’ trip, Alice snaps at her friends as they try to confront her about her relationship with Simon. Will Alice ever see the light and escape, or is she too far gone and stuck in a terrible relationship for the rest of her days?
Alice, Darling runs 90 minutes, almost exactly. The first half sets up Alice’s life, as even in social settings without Simon, she’s withdrawn and not always paying attention. When out with Simon, she seems to acquiesce to his every need, never doing anything on her own or for herself. Their home life is even more troubling as Simon talks Alice into doing things she’s really not feeling at the moment.
Kendrick brilliantly portrays the inner conflict Alice faces all the time. When getting out of bed, she slowly moves, careful not to wake her boyfriend. Once upright, Alice glances over at him. Maybe she feels pity or sorrow toward the creature she feels less than worthy toward. Perhaps she’s secretly wishing for strength and resolve. It’s subtle and elegant, capturing the complex nature of the character perfectly.
“…Alice lies to Simon about going away with Tess and Sophie…”
In that same vein, Carrick is so good it is scary here. The handsome fellow exudes a frightening aura whenever he’s on the screen. The way the actor delivers an apology, which doubles as a putdown of Alice, is calm, reserved, almost robotic. It is scarier than if he had gone bigger and played it like he was in a Lifetime production.
The second half of Alice, Darling focuses on how Tess and Sophie’s love for their friend transforms their trip from a birthday celebration into an intervention/reevaluation of Alice’s relationship. Thanks to the trio’s chemistry and intelligent, realistic screenplay, it is just as searing. Admittedly, there needs to be more clarity over what Tess does for a job. Considering how often Alice looks down on it, more details here would be welcome (it seems she’s an artist like Simon, but I am not certain that is correct).
Horn and Mosaku are great in their respective roles. When Tess tells Alice that “only boring people” believe that love only exists romantically, Horn ensures that viewers feel her character’s pent-up frustrations over how reckless her friend has been as of late. Mosaku’s calmer, more rational take on Sophie makes her the kind of friend everyone would be lucky to have.
Alice, Darling is an intense emotional roller coaster that is so realistic it is frightening. The cast is superb, led by one of Kendrick’s best, possibly very best, performances. The writing is thoughtful, and each character feels distinctive. If you know someone who needs help or you are in need of help, please know that your friends and loved ones will be there for you no matter what. Also, don’t forget about all the helplines that are open to call 24/7.
"…led by one of Kendrick's best, possibly very best, performances."