'Alice Darling' shows complexity of female friendships and how they provide salvation

TORONTO — When it comes to female friendships, Anna Kendrick says the mutual respect and energy of a close friend group can be a source of great strength.

In an interview promoting the new film "Alice, Darling,"the actor recalled a moment where she was sitting on her kitchen floor and talking with three of her closest friends.

She said there was a feeling of wanting the other people in her life to be OK, and for her to give in to thatemotionwas powerful and healing.

"It's not about gender but it feels like a superpower. That's something that women choose to and are allowed to cultivate," Kendrick said. "I wish that experience for everyone, regardless of where they fall on the gender spectrum."

“Alice, Darling” is a Canadian-produced thriller in which Kendrick portrays the title character struggling to reconnect with herself while being pushed to the breaking point by her psychologically abusive boyfriend. While on a cottage trip with her best friendsTess and Sophie, played by Kaniehtiio Horn and Wunmi Mosaku, Alice’s courage and deep-rooted friendships are tested by Simon's vengeful attitude and the toll it takes on her.

The film opened in select theatres Friday and is available to rent and own across digital channels. It first premiered atlast year's Toronto International Film Festival.

At times the three friends in the film seem distant, wondering out loud if they have much left in common. Occasionally, they trade barbs about each other's eating habits or career choices.

Portraying a complexity in their relationship is something London-based director Mary Nighy strived for. She said friendships depicted in movies often show a lot of giggling and superficial dramatizations of how women spend time with each other and what they mean to one another.

She hopes audiences see a range of what real female friendships feel like in “Alice, Darling.”

“You see how they challenge each other,” she said. “You see them mock each other, enjoy each other, worry privately for each other as well.”

“Alice, Darling” also shows Alice externalizing her emotions of her relationship through self-injury, such as pulling her hair.

Kendrick said those actions start out small and not very noticeable, but as it grows it gives the audience a view inside Alice’s mind.

“It can just be an absent-minded tick where she’s cutting off circulation in her finger for no reason,” she said. “And then building from there.”

When it came to writing the script,Alanna Francis said she was thinking about friendships and the inflection points they go through.

“I was really interested in these moments where friendships can kind of wither on the vine due to not really understanding what’s going on with the other person,” she said.

She said she drew from her own friendships, some which were impacted by distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. She realized that it was a big loss not just for her, but for anyone else who had to stop interacting with someone they saw regularly.

“You realize how much those relationships matter,” said Francis. “Once that was taken away from us it was like ‘oh, yeah, I really miss my friends.’”

Francis also said shewanted to explore the ways people sometimes fail their friends and displays that in the movie with Sophie and Tess not being on the same page with Alice about her relationship. Alice then feels tension between them because she doesn’t understand why she feels separated from her friends.

“I just wanted to let them work it out,” she said.

The Toronto-based production duo behind the film said these themes in the script deeply resonated with them.

“We felt we were reading ourselves on the page,” said Lindsay Tapscott, who founded the production company Babe Nation with Katie Bird Nolan in 2016. “We were like ‘I feel so seen.’”

Nolan said she and Tapscott reacted to the script as women first, rather than producers and that it was a moving experience.

“You can just feel Alanna in the script,” she said. “You can feel her inviting other women to be a part of something.”

Tapscott said after working with Francis on the 2019 film "The Rest of Us," a mother-daughter drama starring Heather Graham, she and Nolan knew they were collaborators for life.

"Alice, Darling" was a way for the pair to work with Francis again to tell a resonating story.

“This opportunity to tell this extremely real, specific, personal story was something that spoke to our hearts,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

Christian Collington and Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press