Alice, Darling review | Anna Kendrick like you’ve never seen her before

★★★★☆
In Alice, Darling, Anna Kendrick plays Alice, who is secretly stuck in an abusive relationship with seemingly no way out. Read our review. 

alice darling review

★★★★☆


As told by director Mary Nighy at the London screening and as referenced in this LA Times article, a clinical psychologist told Nighy after a screening that her film, Alice, Darling, could save lives. 

That seems about right. Alice, Darling is a disturbingly quiet yet poignant look at abuse in relationships. Alice’s (Anna Kendrick) boyfriend, Simon (Charlie Carrick), is one of those guys who everyone loves. They’re charming and confident, but there’s also a distinct sense that you don’t ever want to see them angry. 

Alice departs on a week-long trip with her two best girlfriends, Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku), but lies to Simon about going on a work trip. Alice becomes increasingly stressed as she spots a Missing Person poster portraying a young woman, not unlike herself. 

alice darling anna kendrick

Credit: Lionsgate

What makes Nighy’s debut film so chilling is just how familiar it all feels. Writer Alanna Francis nails the subtle nuances of terror and the self-hatred that comes with abuse. Importantly, Nighy and Francis never make the abuse physical, only emotional and mental. This never lessens the blows that come with Simon’s words or his nevertheless threatening demeanour. 

If anything, Alice, Darling successfully avoids becoming a cliched story of heroics or martyrdom. There’s no sensationalism here; this isn’t a flashy, ripped-from-the-tabloids story of endurance. This is a story of survival. In one scene in the film, Alice dives into the lake, and there’s a sense that it would be quite easy for her to stay submerged in the water.  

The tension in the film, in which scenes often play out like a thriller, doesn’t come so much from whether Alice will leave Simon, but whether Simon will find out, Alice has lied to him or whether her friends will realise the truth of Alice’s circumstances. This immediately aligns us closely with Alice; we fear Simon just as much as she does. 

Kendrick, in a career-best performance, is haunted as Alice. She’s an actress known for mostly comedy and musical roles, but she is nothing short of extraordinary here. Her performance is detailed and precise, as you would expect from someone who can closely relate to her character’s circumstances. Kendrick has revealed she had just left an abusive relationship when she accepted the role of Alice.  

alice darling

Credit: Lionsgate

In Kendrick’s hands, Alice feels like a real person; her responses feel accurate, her attempt to casually dismiss her friends’ concerns while panic rises like bile in her throat. Alice often hides in the bathroom, twirling her hair around her finger and pulling it out of her head. 

Kendrick may carry the film with her largely internalised yet impressive performance, but Mosaku and Horn’s support is equally vital for Nighy’s film to succeed in what it wants to say. Instead of focusing on the harrowing abuse and fear Alice experiences, Nighy highlights the solidarity between friends. 

Nighy’s direction is strong; she rarely uses gimmicks or obvious filmmaking choices to convey her message. Instead, she wisely lets the performances speak for themselves. Mike McLaughlin’s camera often focuses tightly on Alice’s face, forcing us to live through her panic attacks with her. 

If Alice, Darling is lacking in any department, it’s the use of sound and image together to create a coherent and immersive film. The traditional, dull score often undermines Nighy’s brilliantly unfussy and honest filmmaking. Alice, Darling is a remarkably strong debut for Nighy, and while it can be a triggering, challenging watch, it shines a light on an important issue and never fails to celebrate the close bonds between women. 


Alice, Darling is in cinemas on 20 January. 


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