In recent years, we’ve seen many films portray female friendships perfectly. Take any genre—romance, horror, sci-fi, or drama—films that represent good friendships always do well. Over the last year, we saw something similar to “Alice, Darling” with the film “Fresh.” Of course, fundamentally, they’re very different films, but it’s the friends that save the protagonist, and that’s what makes these films memorable. As a woman myself, I can’t help but gravitate towards such films and appreciate them for not reducing female friendships to gossip and cupid roleplay, or the worst kind, fighting over a man. “Alice, Darling” explores psychological abuse in a very sinister manner, paced a little like “The Last Daughter,” giving us the same eerie atmosphere pressuring our anxieties. There are some flaws in the film, most notably the “missing girl” storyline, that seemed a little bit unnecessary for this already thick plot. Anna Kendrick does a fantastic job keeping us on the edge of our seats throughout the film by making us feel almost claustrophobic via her performance. It’s a short film that cuts deep and remains in your head for hours after watching. Watch this one with your girlfriends for added kicks.
Alice is our protagonist, as the name of the film suggests. She’s in a psychologically abusive relationship with a man named Simon, who gaslights her into believing she is innately lousy. At the beginning of the film, it is very unclear what Alice is going through because she’s so great at concealing herself from anyone who is close to her. Slowly, we see how fragile she is, cracking at every little touch. Alice is understanding of her situation; she sees all the things that are wrong with it but needs her friends to help her get out of it. She is obsessive, maintaining routines like going for a jog in the morning and watching her calories like a hawk, but we can’t tell if it’s only because of Simon or if she had such tendencies beforehand as well. She wakes up early in the morning to get ready before Simon wakes up, shaving her legs and armpits, wearing eyeliner, and styling her hair to maintain her appearance in front of him. Alice is blindsided by Simon into believing she doesn’t need her friends and doesn’t care for them. When she starts to spend time away from him and with the girls, she gets assured of her anxious feelings. When Alice finds out about the missing girl, in some ways she projects herself on to her. Alice relates to the missing girl because she is missing too, in many ways. She is present, but not there. Her mind is swallowed by Simon’s thoughts. She even talks about how she thinks the only place she is alone is in her mind, with her own thoughts. Sometimes she thinks he can read her mind too—that’s how afraid she is. She excessively pulls out her hair and wraps it around her index finger as a coping mechanism for her anxieties. When Simon tries to take her back, she obliges out of fear, but when Tess and Sophie come to get her, she manages to stand her ground through their support. In the end, she metaphorically purifies herself by entering the lake, the same place she lost the earrings Simon gave her.
Simon is a hollow, controlling man who makes self-indulgent artwork (according to Tess). It is evident that he uses Alice as a means to maintain control of something other than his work. He is incapable of being “creative” or “making art” without her presence in his life. He comes across as nice enough to other people, but the moment he notices Alice drifting, he gaslights her into believing her friends are the ones who are bad for her. Simon is a very straightforward character, just like the plot of the film. He’s narcissistic and demeaning towards his partner mentally. Simon looks to be successful in his work, but this success may be slipping away from him too. When Simon loses his cool in front of Sophie and Tess in the end, it is clear from his expression that he didn’t want it to get that way in front of other people, because he knew exactly what he was doing. There was nothing involuntary about his abuse. He is just a bad man.
Tess is that straightforward friend we all need in our lives. It’s facts only for her. Her demeanour is a little bit overpowering, but she’s exactly the opposite of that. Tess truly cares about Alice. She’s the one who wanted her to come on the trip. She got her to get out onto the lake and free herself. Alice cried to her because she felt safest with her. Alice fights with Tess because she knows she’s right. Tess can see through it all, and Alice isn’t ready to be told to leave Simon. Tess doesn’t lose hope, though. She’s a loyal friend who wants to make Alice see the truth about her relationship. What’s funny is that Alice calls Tess selfish a couple of times, but Tess is the one who is also dealing with her own issues and still trying to take care of Alice’s mess. She’s hurt many times by Alice’s words about her work. This could be reason enough for one to forgo their friendship, but Tess doesn’t break because Alice is the one who needs fixing first. Tess is affirmative, keeping Alice from ruining her life further.
Sophie is the glue that binds the group together. She is here to keep everyone cool and positive. Sophie is the most understanding character in the film. She wants to help Alice and can see what the matter is, but doesn’t clearly know how to do it. She has a heart of gold. She’s also the smartest of them all because she sees Tess and Alice need alone time to sort their issues out without her interference. She influences Alice’s decision to stay back with them and get her mind off Simon. She tells Alice to chop the wood to release her trauma. Sophie pays attention to the details; she sees all the small things that are bothering her friends, giving them time and resources to unwind. We all need a Sophie in our lives.