As stories of abuse become more commonplace, the ways we identify the nuances have changed. For many years, the depiction of abuse was straightforward and undeniable. You could see the bruises and mental anguish on the women. However, with more stories coming to light, it’s obvious that abuse takes many forms. Alice, Darling seeks to showcase an example of mental abuse forcing a codependent child relationship on their partner. While aspects of the film Alice, Darling feel fresh, the story ultimately relies on frustrating plot mechanics to tell its story.
Alice, Darling follows the titular professional (Anna Kendrick) on a weekend getaway. To go on the trip, Alice lies to Simon (Charlie Carrick) that she’s on a work trip. Instead, she leaves the city with lifelong friends Tess (Kaniehito Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku). As Simon pushes her to come home, Alice struggles to balance her friendships with her relationship.
The most frustrating aspects of Alice, Darling revolve around the exposition. From the moment that Alice begins voicing issues with Simon, the red flags are glaring. It’s not a small issue here or there, but Alice speaks of non-stop problems. She’s unhappy, but the constant phone calls and texts force her to explain away her frustrations. However, this begins to take a roundabout series of excuses that cause anyone in the vicinity to look quizzically in her direction.
It’s reasonable to assume Alice has diluted herself into believing her relationship is normal. However, the film also depicts a world where her friends see her fairly often. Even before the trip, they go to dinner and attend Simon’s art show. Alice also knows her friend’s problems with work and relationships. This feels at odds with the Simon we see throughout the film, the guy who literally will not leave Alice alone when she’s away from him. Additionally, her friends pick up on the issues as soon as Alice voices the concern but seemingly have not caught on to Simons’s abuse in their faces.
Additionally, overreliance on exposition drags the pacing down. This falls on both the screenwriter and director, as cuts were clearly needed. Director Mary Nighy shoots the film well, showcasing intricate blocking and shot selection. These are far more interesting sequences that give us more important information about Alice than the dialogue itself. The stronger storytelling came from the visual language of Alice, Darling, and the film should have leaned into it more.
The performances of Alice, Darling range from great to actively bad. Mosaku steals the film, charming her way through every scene. She also brings emotional gravitas when Alice desperately needs it. Horn and Kendrick are serviceable, in part because we’ve seen similar performances before. Most jarring is Carrick, who not only seems cartoonishly bad but has almost no chemistry with Kendrick. He has been good in the past, so it’s unclear why he feels so miscast in the role.
Abuse takes many forms, but trying to yada yada our way through it undermines the story. There’s a powerful story in Alice, Darling, but the tired tropes it uses to tell the story to grind it up to a halt. While Alice, Darling does not always work, stories of abuse must continue to disseminate throughout culture. The more we know about these toxic relationships, the easier it can be to stop them in their infancy.