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Home > Alice, Darling (2023): A Review

Alice, Darling (2023): A Review

Alice Darling

Simon Says: A Gripping, Anxiety-Inducing Thriller

Alice, Darling isn’t like other psychological thrillers. Through Anna Kendrick’s performance and calculative cinematographic choices, the 2023 film sucks its audience into its anxiety-inducing experience like a black hole. The specific choices that writer Alanna Francis made with actions and even character names prove that the little things matter (i.e. naming the emotionally abusive boyfriend Simon just says it all about him). 

The movie introduces us to Alice (Kendrick), who is in a toxic relationship with Simon (Charlie Carrick). When Anna is invited to go on a trip with her two friends, Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku), she lies to Simon by calling it a work excursion. Soon, Alice’s deep-seated anxiety over her boyfriend’s virtual presence unravels while her friends learn what’s really going on in her love life.  

Director Mary Nighy’s direction was clear; with several close-up shots, the audience can feel exactly what Alice is feeling in the moment, and that’s multiplied by unspoken thoughts and emotions that viewers know are bottled up inside her. Not only that, but the main actors’ performances were stronger as a team. They supported Kendrick’s grappling portrayal of a person who can not only escape the clutches of her toxic partner, but also of someone who struggles with severe anxiety because of him. 

Close Camera Shots 

Right from the start, Alice, Darling pulls us into its protagonist’s world. As she rides in a car back to her apartment in one scene, Alice is seen twisting and pulling a hair strand around her index finger while her face droops along with her misery as she looks out the window. 

There are quite a few of these close-up hair-pulling scenes, which can only be conveyed through zoom-ins on Kendrick’s facial expression and mannerisms. From the nervous swipe of eyeliner to dismally holding out strands of falling hair, the audience can easily feel her internal combustion. It’s painful to watch, but viewers wouldn’t feel the same tension if the camera didn’t overwhelm them with her. 

The cinematography is one of the most visible tactics throughout the film because of how Alice is the only character whose face, hands, hair, etc are intermittently honed in on, versus how the others in each scene appear zoomed out. Tess and Sophie’s reactions to their friend’s sporadic behavior are seen in wider shots. Simon is typically seen in zoomed-out angles as well. But when Kendrick’s character starts to break down all alone in a corner, the audience gets on her level through sudden and intense close-ups.  

A Trio Is Stronger 

Although this is undeniably Kendrick’s pivotal role in her career, the film wouldn’t be the same without its three main women. Mosaku’s Sophie is refreshingly empathetic and thoughtful, whereas Horn’s Tess is the big-mouthed yet helpful friend — who is even called the “bully” by Tess at one point for her unfiltered reactions to Alice’s behavior. 

Alice’s two best friends’ personalities are visibly opposite, which is both entertaining  and intriguing for the audience. As Tess and Sophie realize throughout their trip that Alice is gradually coming apart, viewers can see how both of them deal with situations differently. However, they eventually stand in unity with Alice in one way, proving that the friend group may not mesh together perfectly but can certainly support one another in the worst times. 

Alice Darling

In one scene between Sophie and Alice, Alice takes a jab at Sophie’s sugar-filled dessert, which she points out “corrodes organs.” Once Sophie reveals that she knows what “disordered eating looks like,” Alice snaps and stuffs her mouth with cookies and anxiously answers the phone for Simon. This is the moment when Sophie shows us that while she’s the non-judgmental buddy, she is still a human and can react shocked as hell like the rest of us are when watching this unfold.

As for Tess, she finally shows a peaceful side to her once she convinces Alice to go on the paddleboard on the lake with her. After Alice starts to hint at how she’s shifted her lifestyle for Simon, Tess’ arrogance fades and we see her soul finally emerge. 

Without Tess and Sophie, Alice’s story would not have come together as strongly as it did. Every story needs conflict, and what better way to unravel drama than by throwing in the “opposites attract” archetype, only this time with friends instead of romantic partners?

Recognizable Realism 

Various audiences can all recognize at least one incident in this film. Whether it be Alice’s anxiety, or the controlling boyfriend, or even the leading lady duking it out with one of her friends, Alice, Darling pulls off a realistic approach to connect with its viewers. 

People deal with anxiety in different ways. However, those who live with a heightened version of the condition understand the lengths that Alice goes through to try to suppress her fear. Trigger words or traumatizing memories are debilitating, and Kendrick portrays her character’s highs and lows accurately. It’s not that uncommon for some to tug at their hair strands, bite their nails, or any other type of fidgeting that can distract the victim from the pain in front of them. Kendrick simply nails her performance in this sense. 

As for Carrick’s Simon, many audiences can recognize the character’s controlling self in minor ways; they don’t even need to wait until the end to see his true colors. Leaning on Alice’s overly caring emotional support to showing up in her life uninvited establishes his need to dominate. It’s not that difficult for viewers to recall this behavior as something they’ve either personally experienced or simply read in a textbook because that’s what this is: textbook psychological abuse. 

Alice, Darling is not a blood-chilling nightmare, nor is it a mind-boggling experience. It’s actually such a simple storyline that is anchored by the brilliance of its cast, director, and screenwriter’s choices. Small details go a long way in this production. Without them, it would be strenuous to relate to the titular protagonist. 

The film also emphasizes how friendship goes a long way, despite what the situation may be. But those who are open to learning and communicating are the most successful friends. We don’t just see an arc in Kendrick’s character; we see a difference in her friends and Simon as well from the beginning to the end.

Not everything is held until the very last 10 minutes — with the exception, of course, of its dramatic, shattering conclusion — as most of Simon’s abuse is sprinkled throughout the film just enough to give the audience a taste of what Alice has been dealing with. We see tidbits of her life with him, and this essentially carries viewers through Alice’s slow breakdown; it may have been difficult to relate to her without those flashbacks. All in all, Alice, Darling provides a solid perspective of what internalized pain looks like.

Alice Darling

Alice, Darling (2023) Official Lionsgate Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Elisabeth joined Dead Talk News in 2022 and loves movies and TV! After working for various sites, including Screen Rant and Showbiz Cheat Sheet, Elisabeth joined DTN to critique and review various movies, from horror flicks to Disney live-actions.