Actor Mary Nighy (MARIE ANTOINETTE) makes her feature debut with the beautifully observed, urgent drama ALICE DARLING. The film, written by Alanna Francis, stars Anna Kendrick (PITCH PERFECT) as a woman trapped in a coercive control relationship. The problem is she's been making compromises and adjustments and catering to her partner's fragile ego for so long that she doesn't even realise she's being abused. When we meet her, the normally ebullient smart Kendrick seems to small and quiet and numb it's a shock to audiences familiar with her presence.
The good news for Alice is that she has two amazing friends, played by Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country) and Kaniehttio Horn. They persuade Alice to join them on a special birthday weekend in the country, not realising that she lied to her partner to manage to get away. As the weekend unfolds they realise how controlling he is, and how lost their friend is, and miracle of miracles, they actually manage to get through to her too. It's a wonderful and little seen testament to the power of female friendship. Of course, in the real world we know that it takes abused women many attempts to leave their abusers, so horrific is the damage done to their self-esteem and so claustrophobic the feelings of shame. As with TO LESLIE I found the ending a little.....American....and easy. But I loved the journey, the central performances, and the centring of the female experience of coercive control. Mary Nighy may be a nepo baby but she is an assured director with a sensitive and authentic approach to difficult subject matter. Kudos.
ALICE DARLING is rated R and has a running time of 89 minutes. It played Toronto 2022 and is currently on release in cinemas and on the internet.