January 13, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Mary Nighy
Culture Representation: Taking place in New York state, the dramatic film “Alice, Darling” features a predominantly white cast of people (with one black person and one Native American) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A woman who’s in an emotionally abusive relationship with a boyfriend comes to terms with the relationship when she goes on a secretive getaway vacation with her two closest female friends.
Culture Audience: “Alice, Darling” will appeal primarily to people interested in watching psychological dramas about people in troubled relationships.
“Alice, Darling” is a mostly compelling and realistic portrayal of the dysfunction and denial of being trapped in an emotional abusive relationship. Viewers should not expect much of a plot to this drama, which mostly presents a well-acted psychological portrait of how emotional abuse affects not only the target of the abuse but also the people closed to the abused person. The movie also offers incisive observations about how people can struggle with handling abuse that is not physical or not illegal. “Alice, Darling” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
Directed by Mary Nighy and written by Alanna Francis, “Alice, Darling” begins by showing protagonist Alice (played by Anna Kendrick) seeming to be in an ideal, loving relationship with her live-in boyfriend Simon (played by Charlie Carrick), who is a painter artist. Alice is in her early-to-mid-30s, while Simon is 37. They both live in New York City. (“Alice, Darling” was actually filmed in Canada.)
It’s never stated what Alice does for a living. The only detail given in the movie is that she works for a company where she sometimes has to travel for business meetings. At one point in the movie, Simon tells Alice that he thinks that her job is beneath her and that she could do better than the job she currently has. But is Simon being helpful or hurtful with this criticism? The cracks eventually begin to show in their relationship.
Early on in the movie, Alice is shown meeting up with her two closest friends at a wine bar. Sophie (played by Wunmi Mosaku) is outgoing and sassy. Tess (played by Kaniehtiio Horn) is emotionally guarded and somewhat brooding. During their get-together, Sophie and Tess mildly tease Alice about their waiter (played by Ethan Mitchell) showing signs of being openly attracted to Alice.
Simon has asked Alice to invite Sophie and Tess to the opening of his most recent gallery exhibition. Even though Tess and Sophie said that they would both attend, only Sophie shows up. Alice is very upset by Tess not being there, but Sophie (who works at an unnamed non-profit group) tries to smooth things over, by saying that Tess sometimes “gets in her own head when she’s working.” It’s later revealed that Tess is an artist too, but she’s doing her work for free because it’s all the work she can get at the moment.
It’s eventually revealed that Tess does not like Simon at all, while Sophie is cordial with Simon and is trying to keep an open mind about him. Simon doesn’t care for Tess and Sophie, and he frequently tells Alice that she should end her friendships with them. Tess’ 30th birthday is coming up, so Sophie suggests that she, Tess and Alice celebrate by spending time at a cottage in upstate New York owned by Sophie’s parents, who will be out of town for a vacation.
Alice accepts the invitation, but she lies to Simon by saying that she’s going on a business trip. On the road trip to the cottage, the three pals stop at a convenience store, where Alice sees a missing person flyer for a young woman named Andrea Evans. This missing person case will affect Alice in ways she that she doesn’t expect.
While at the cottage, Alice is anxious and emotionally on edge, as Simon constantly calls her to check up on her. It reaches a point where Tess and Sophie take Alice’s phone away from Alice, who becomes increasingly agitated and paranoid that Simon will think she’s a horrible person for lying about where she was going on this trip. The rest of “Alice, Darling” shows what happens when Alice (as well as Tess and Sophie) can no longer ignore the problems in Alice’s relationship with Simon.
Several quick flashbacks of memories reveal what type of toxic relationship that Simon and Alice have. Simon seems to be a perfect gentleman in public, but he’s also deeply insecure and verbally abuses Alice in private. All of the cast members give realistic performances, but Kendrick has the most complicated role, and she handles it with admirable skill. The movie somewhat falters with a climactic scene that looks too staged. However, if anyone wants a better understanding of what emotional abuse looks like when it’s hiding in plain sight, “Alice, Darling” has a meaningful portrayal.
Lionsgate released “Alice, Darling” in Los Angeles on December 30, 2022. The movie’s release expands to more U.S. cinemas, exclusively at AMC Theatres, on January 20, 2023.