Alice, Darling movie review: this gaslighting drama has its flaws, but it could still change your life

Alice, Darling movie review: this gaslighting drama has its flaws, but it could still change your life

Anna Kendrick is mesmerising in this one-of-a-kind drama that explores the kind of abuse that turns victims into perpetrators. Alice (Kendrick) has a controlling British boyfriend, Simon (Charlie Carrick, who is excellent especially with his chilling mirthless chuckles). Simon doesn’t physically hurt Alice but, as a result of his behaviour, she hurts herself. In other words, even when alone, Alice is stuck with her own worst enemy.

The plot revolves around a trip Alice makes, with two friends she’s known since childhood: Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku, who is fantastic) and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn, who is a bit less subtle, but solid).

Tess, about to turn 30, is struggling with her career, and needs cheering up; the plan is to spend a fun week at the lakeside cottage owned by Sophie’s parents. But Alice, who has told Simon that this is a work event (he’s jealous of her pals), is on edge and resents Tess’s need for attention, which is a nice touch.

The script, by Alanna Francis, acknowledges how self-absorbed the self-negating can be. Simon’s line is that Alice is a bad person. He’s gaslighting her, obviously, but the truth is that she’s too miserable right now to be a good friend.

 (Samantha Falco/Lionsgate)
(Samantha Falco/Lionsgate)

Kendrick revealed, recently, that she herself had a long-term relationship that involved emotional abuse and the erosion of her self-esteem. I don’t think that’s why she gives such a compelling performance (she’s an enormously skilful actress; scratchily intense, whether in indie gems, blockbusters or kids cartoons), but a scene in which Alice says she wants to shed her sense of shame, and asks Sophie and Tess for help, has the feel of an exorcism. It gave me goosebumps.

There’s something consistently authentic about the chemistry between the female trio. During a night time ramble, they sing Lisa Loeb’s Stay with just the right amount of shambolic bravado. And the film’s highlights are incredibly tense (there’s an excruciating dinner party in which toxic-looking slabs of steak all but become extra characters in the room).

True, a missing-girl plot thread doesn’t add much and – as a metaphor – is a tad heavy-handed. Alice, Darling could do with a proper third act, and first-time director Mary Nighy, looking for fresh angles in her lake location, doesn’t always find them.

But, if you can manage your expectations, the film is abundantly rewarding. Bonus feature: it might just change your life.

90mins, cert 15

In cinemas