Written by Alanna Francis, ‘Alice, Darling’ is a psychological thriller film centered around an abusive relationship. It creates a genuine sense of dread and breathlessness while portraying the mind-numbing impact of mental abuse on a young woman named Alice, thus touching on themes of domestic abuse and emotional manipulation. Trapped in a toxic relationship with narcissistic Simon, her daily life is exhausted by fulfilling his emotional needs.
This directorial debut of Mary Nighy creates a visceral impact through its experiential storytelling approach. The film benefits from its clever attention to minute details. It isolates certain sequences – be it the way Alice anxiously plays with a strand of hair to the way she rehearses her dialogues with her partner while observing him from a distance – that put us right into her psychological state.
Alice Darling (2022) Movie Summary & Plot Synopsis
The film begins with Alice (Anna Kendrick) going to meet her friends, whom she rarely hangs out with now. On her way to the restaurant, she seems incredibly anxious. She constantly attempts to tidy up her appearance as if she will be mortified if not for their approval. When she walks in, she instantly puts on a happy face, as if switching to a completely different personality. There are only hints of her anxiety when she glances at her phone.
Her friends, Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) keep observing these details and acknowledge their realization with one another. But they do not directly mention it to Alice. Tess rather mentions a guy who waxes his entire body to make her open up. But Alice only mentions that she finds it absurd. Right in the middle of their conversation, she suddenly goes to the washroom, clicks a photo of her cleavage, and sends it to her partner, Simon (Charlie Carrick). When she returns to the table, Sophie invites her to the celebration of her 30th birthday. Alice does not accept the invitation right away and also leaves abruptly.
Back at her place, she tries to erase a contact number written on a card as if trying to hide it from Simon. She goes to take a shower and keeps recalling the sexual experiences she has had with Simon. Suddenly, he appears beside her and scares her wits. She looks visibly happy, but you sense that she is only trying to project that happiness. The next morning, she wakes up and starts waxing her body hair as if it is a necessary daily ritual for her. They go out together, and she laughs at his joke, which seems like an act between a regular couple.
Simon asks if Alice would like a piece of cake, which is unlike him since he refuses to have any sugars in their diet. He still sees it as a favor he is doing for her and goes to a store to purchase it. She observes his interaction from outside while mumbling some lines to herself. Only later do we realize that she was rehearsing her dialogue with Simon about a work trip she wants to take. She fakes this because she wants to go with her friends on a trip during that time. He considers her work of little value and believes she should not be doing it. This is the first instance we get a clear sign of his controlling behavior, which scares her so much that she chooses to abide by what he expects of her.
At his gallery exhibition, Simon eats up all the praise he gets thinking that he is truly worth every bit of it. Alice plays a role of an ideal, submissive female partner during this celebration of his talent. Sophie, who visits this celebration, notices the strangeness of her put-on act of sophistication. She also mentions it to Alice, who chooses not to pay attention. Later, back at home, Simon starts weeping, thinking that his exhibition was a failure. Alice does her motherly duty of uplifting his self-perception and making him feel valued. Later, when she is in the bathroom alone, she lets out her anger by taking off the strands of her hair.
Then the day arrives when she goes on a trip with Tess and Sophie. During their car ride, she gets Simon’s text wishing her to have a safe flight. It reminds her of the lie she told him while going on a road trip with her friends. She makes Tess stop the car, gets out, and start puking due to the fear that he has caught this lie. During this entire trip, Tess and Sophie keep trying to make Alice open up about her honest emotions by bringing up subjects that can help her share her hatred for Simon’s rigid behavior. Despite their numerous efforts, Alice shies away from sharing any criticism about entitled men like him.
Tess and Sophie naturally bring up subjects of sex, sexual pleasure, and companionship, among others, in their dialogue. So, Alice shares a sex dream she had with someone besides Simon and mentions that he forbids having it. Tess points out how absurd it is for him to put such boundaries on what kind of thoughts she can have. Alice finds it hard to digest that she bought into Simon’s manically controlling demands. In her early hours on this trip, she keeps having nightmarish visions of how he keeps her under his spell. Later that night, she sends him a thirst text, implying that she thinks of him sexually even during her time away from him.
The next day, Alice goes on a morning run while listening to a podcast motivating women to push the boundaries of what they are capable of. A local police officer hands out a pamphlet to her about a missing person named Andrea. Earlier, she had overheard a dialogue between two women about this young girl, implying that it was her fault for what happened to her. It may be a projection of her thoughts related to Simon’s constant gaslighting attempts, but it makes us get another look at how women are being judged too quickly (and villainized) and never get a chance to take a step toward freedom.
Through their frequent chattering, Tess and Sophie keep reminding Alice of her cheerful past self. It makes Alice introspect the parts that she has changed over the years for Simon. Later, Simon texts Alice asking her if she can return sooner. She takes it as a sign that he might feel depressed if she doesn’t go back and brings up this subject to Tess and Sophie. Tess questions the suddenness of her departure while also making her realize that they have come there to celebrate a birthday that is special to her (her 30th).
Alice flips back at Tess and tries to make her feel undervalued so that she can win an argument over her. Sophie gets angry and storms out of the room. Alice keeps texting Simon due to the fear of his probable resentment. During her later conversation with Sophie, we get a sense of how he has manipulated her into thinking that Tess is bad – that Tess & Sophie make her feel bad about herself, and her friendship with these friends has run its course. Sophie clearly understands her paranoia about this subject and steers the topic in another direction.
While Tess tries a more direct approach for Alice to open up about her emotional wounds, Sophie uses subliminal methods to let her process her anger. When she gets a chance to cut logs of wood, she keeps cutting them not till it reaches the amount that is required but until it satisfies her. Later at night, Sophie starts strumming a romantic song on her guitar about a partner supporting one’s emotional needs. She tries to invite Alice to recite. But Alice refuses to join; perhaps she is keenly perceptive of her current predicament.
The next day, Sophie starts working on a cinnamon roll and gets Alice to join. During their work, Alice keeps enforcing how bad sugar is for their health, and thus, these rolls. Sophie reminds her how much she used to like them back in college. It brings back her realization of how much she has departed from her old self and fills her mouth full of sugar to taunt Sophie. She then gets a call from Simon, which freaks her out. She gets all jumpy in her reaction to it and goes out to speak with him.
When Alice comes back, she mentions that Simon ‘needs’ her, which is why she should urgently return. Tess tries to make her see the strangeness of this request and tells her that she should not leave. But she does not pay heed to Tess’s justification.
The next morning, when Alice wakes up, she cannot find her phone or wallet. She goes to Tess to ask her about it. Tess sees keeping her phone hidden as a way for them to have alone time. Alice frantically starts looking for it and eventually accepts her defeat. Then, Sophie invites her to surf if she wants her phone returned. During their time in the water, Tess tries to bring out Alice’s cheerful side but ends up making her furious and scared of losing the earrings that Simon gave her. She even goes into the depths of water to retrieve them.
Back at their place, Tess confronts Alice about her franticness. She also points out how Simon has made her scared to her wits to the point she is an entirely changed person now. Alice presents a picture that Simon painted of Tess, that she is jealous of him for not reaching his level of accomplishment. Their argument soon turns ugly. So, Alice runs to the bathroom in panic, taking out strands of her hair while recounting Simon’s demonic gaze. Sophie hears her weeping and offers her help. But upon Alice’s refusal, she lets her process her difficult emotions on her own for the time being.
The next morning, Alice gets out of the house and starts walking alone. She reaches an empty house and walks in to see what’s inside. She soon runs out of fear and then finds a lip balm lying on the grass outside. Back at their place, she takes a bath for herself and applies some of that balm onto her lip. Tess joins her and offers her some food as an icebreaker to start a dialogue with her. Alice starts eating the food and asks Tess if they can stay longer. She agrees.
The next day, early in the morning, Alice hears a thumping sound and wakes up, thinking it to be Simon’s terrifying presence. That was just Tess cutting wooden logs with a maul. Meanwhile, Sophie is angry at Tess’s erratic behavior, But she eventually lets go of her guard. Soon after, Alice and Sophie bond over Tess being a bully. There is a playful moment that is the initiation of Alice returning to her actual self. Through their further conversations, Alice opens up about the mental abuse by Simon, which she did not register or speak about, because it was never physical.
Alice reaches a point of comfort where she does not even want her phone returned, the same one she was terrified of being lost. She finally starts behaving openly without fear of being watched by Simon. She even gets drunk with Sophie and Tess and starts singing the song Sophie was trying to make her sing before. There is still a lurking thought that reminds her how Simon micromanaged her life to every last detail.
The next morning, Simon shows up at their door and brings the mood of their free trip down. Seeing him there, panic-stricken Alice runs to the bathroom and gets her eyelashes ready the way he prefers. He later makes dinner for them, and they have the food in a scary silence. Tess keeps trying to lighten up the mood that is affected by Simon’s intimidating persona. Meanwhile, Alice keeps participating in validating Simon’s whims. In the ensuing conversation, Alice brings up the subject of the missing girl. Simon mentions how insignificant this topic is for him. He also criticizes Alice’s new look, which is not according to the image he prefers of her.
Later when he is alone with her, he keeps trying to assert his dominance, and she submits to his efforts. However, she goes into the bathroom to pull out strands of her hair with extreme force. She comes back to be greeted with a passionate kiss from him that she begrudgingly accepts. She eventually submits to pleasuring him to make him feel valued. But, during their sex, once she gets upon his body, she starts sensing this opposite power dynamic where sex and orgasm can be for pleasure and in her control. In the end, he starts manically laughing at her, making her feel weird about herself. Despite her realization, she ends up wallowing in sadness.
Alice Darling (2022) Movie Ending Explained: Does Alice go back home with Simon?
The next morning, Alice packs up her bags and her suitcases with a resolve to return home with Simon. Tess and Sophie try to stop her from doing so but fail at it. Eventually, the couple gets inside the car and starts heading home. When Simon reaches a turn next to their place, he suddenly hears a thud. He sees that Sophie has attacked his car with a maul. So, he furiously gets out and starts voicing his anger. He tries to make her and Tess believe that they are making Alice stay there beyond her will. He believes that Alice would support him in his assessment as she has always done. But she stays firm in her resolve to stay distant from him, which makes him eventually leave.
Once Alice decides to stay back at their place, the house starts feeling much freer without Simon’s presence. They start packing all their stuff for this trip, seeing that the need for Alice’s intervention has reached an end. Alice finally opens up about the shame Simon made her feel during their time together for the tiniest wrongdoings. Through all of her confessions, Tess & Sophie stay strong with her in support. She soon goes out to ride the surfboard by herself and then gets inside the water. She feels a sense of freedom now that she does not need to fear what Simon would think of her actions. The last shot, where she comes out of the water, is Alice’s silent acknowledgment of her long-due freedom.
Also, Read: Barbarian (2022) Movie Ending, Explained – Who is the woman in the dungeon?
Watch Alice Darling (2022) Movie Trailer