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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Alice, Darling: Review

Alice, Darling Synopsis: Alice, a young woman (Anna Kendrick) trapped in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend Simon, becomes an unwitting participant in an intervention staged by her two closest friends (Wunmi Mosaku and Kaniehtiio Horn).

Alice comes face-to-face with the lingering damage caused by her psychologically manipulative boyfriend, Simon, in Alice, Darling. As a holdover from the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival slate, Alice, Darling examines a critical and frequently misunderstood issue that boasts profound resonance in our post-#MeToo world.

The topic holds extra weight for star and producer Anna Kendrick, who has openly discussed her history of overcoming an abusive ex-boyfriend. A toxic relationship can seize a transfixing hold on a person. In what is supposed to be one of humanity's most affectionate dynamics, the constant bombardment of degrading remarks and intimidating attitudes can deprive a person of their identity.

Director Mary Nighy and screenwriter Alanna Francis explore these dynamics in a subdued chamber piece where Alice and her trusted friends reflect on the painful ramifications of a fractured relationship. While Alice, Darling's heart is always in the right place, this sleight character study struggles to unearth nuanced revelations from its potent subject matter.

Alice, Darling conforms far too closely to the standard-issue film festival mold. I appreciate the grounded realism Nighy imbues into her material; she takes a patient approach that quietly wrestles with the unescapable demons haunting Alice's day-to-day existence. In execution, Nighy struggles to grasp a commanding hold of her material. The director's utilization of a weepy musical score and inarticulate framing choices only hinder her reflective lens behind the camera.

Francis' screenplay is similarly undercooked. The screenwriter invokes moments of stirring sentiments when unpacking the multitude of ways Simon leaves an inescapable imprint on Alice's behaviors. The instances where Francis focuses on the subtle behavioral changes Alice undergoes are occasionally impactful, but the screenwriter ultimately paints a portrait that desperately needs additional shading. The airtight 89-minute runtime is more of a hindrance than a benefit to Francis, with her material struggling to define a thought-provoking thesis from its weighty ideals.

Even with its struggles, Alice, Darling maintains some engagement from its standout performances. Anna Kendrick delivers her best work since her 2009 breakout Up in the Air as the emotionally vulnerable Alice. Kendrick powerfully unearths the character's struggles without an ounce of vanity as she gradually strips away the destructive impacts of her relationship. Co-stars Wunmi Mosaku and Kaniehtiio Horn are affectionate forces as Alice's empathetic friends, while Charlie Carrick taps into the simmering menace behind Simon's narcissistic personality.

There are glimmers of promise worth celebrating in Alice, Darling, but the final product never fully realizes its potential.

Alice, Darling opens in theaters on January 20.


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