A young woman trapped in an abusive relationship becomes the unwitting participant in an intervention staged by her two closest friends.
‘Alice, Darling’, the debut feature from Mary Nighy (yes, that is Bill’s daughter), is a movie about how difficult it is for someone to leave an abusive relationship. It follows Alice (Anna Kendrick) on a vacation with her two best friends, as she attempts to break the cycle of codependency with her boyfriend Simon (Charlie Carrick). We learn, mostly through snippets of flashbacks, that he is psychologically abusive and has manipulated Alice to believe she has limited self-worth, all whilst still feeling desperately reliant on him, putting her in a position where she feels she needs to lie to him about going on vacation with her friends.
Nighy and screenwriter Alanna Francis are keenly attuned to the ways in which people make excuses for and are willing to forgo unacceptable behaviour, whether it be to maintain the façade that everything is alright or whether it is to avoid the fallout that would come from confronting it. Alice’s friends Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaka) start to pick up on signs that everything isn’t right with her, but they find it difficult to get her to open up, let alone to acknowledge that something isn’t right with Charlie. After breaking out 15 or so years ago now, Anna Kendrick hasn’t really got the roles she deserves, and her performance as Alice here is a reminder of how good she can be with the right role. Mosaka and Horn provide solid support as her friends, and Carrick, whilst given less to do, makes Simon a suitably dislikeable presence in his limited screentime.
‘Alice, Darling’ is 90 minutes long and there is a sense that the filmmakers don’t quite have enough story here to justify feature length, with a couple of attempts to expand the scope of Alice’s story not really fitting into the central arc as neatly as hoped – her obsession with a local girl who has gone missing the obvious touchpoint. ‘Alice, Darling’ is nonetheless a thought provoking movie about the difficulties of breaking up with an abusive partner, and it’s well acted particularly by Anna Kendrick, even as it remains a relatively small stakes story that doesn’t quite carry the power that it could have done.
Directed By: Mary Nighy
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Kaniehiito Horn, Wunmi Mosaka and Charlie Carrick