Activation Warning: This blog contains descriptions of abuse, which may be difficult to read.
When you search for the movie Alice, Darling, it’s listed as a thriller/mystery movie. It follows a group of lifelong friends on a weekend getaway to re-bond at a camp in Minnesota.
There is a mystery of a girl that has gone missing in the small town where the camp is.
But make no mistake about it. This movie isn’t a mystery or a thriller.
It is a movie about coercion and gaslighting. About control and manipulation. About self-doubt and power.
It is a movie about domestic violence.
Alice, Darling stars Anna Kendrick. While a movie centered around elements of domestic violence may seem outside of the realm for a star that is most known for simplistic movies such as the Pitch Perfect franchise, Into the Woods, A Simple Favor, and Up in the Air, there’s a good reason that Kendrick was drawn to the role.
It closely resembles her real life.
OK, not as Alice, but as Anna. Anna Kendrick. The real-life human from Portland, ME.
During press promotion, Kendrick revealed in an interview that she was coming out of a six-year abusive relationship with her long-time partner.
“It was hard for me to recognize this as an abusive relationship because it didn’t follow the trajectory of the frog in water. It’s unusual that it was six years of a happy, loving relationship, and then overnight, a shift,” Kendrick said on the Armchair Expert podcast. “The fact that I talked about it at all was a mistake. It was a 10-minute thing, and I forgot the mantra that ‘Anna, you aren’t under oath, and they aren’t your friends.'”
“I don’t mean anything negative to that journalist. I just said it. Early on, after getting out, I started saying it to anyone that asked. I couldn’t swallow the shame anymore.”
It’s a word that feels dirty, but it’s a word with so much meaning.
And throughout the interview, both Kendrick and host Dax Shepard – who has detailed his past molestation as a 7-year-old on the podcast – discussed the shame they felt and still feel today.
Shepard recounted his conversation with his mother, who was also a victim of domestic abuse.
“My mom said, ‘the shame of failing at this a second time is worse than the shame of the physical abuse,'” he said.
That aligned with what Kendrick said was the root of her shame, too, which is why didn’t she leave.
“It wasn’t just losing a relationship, but I believed that if we broke up, it was a confirmation that I’m impossible and I’m lucky that he’s tolerating my bulls—,” she said. “There was an inherent thing of me being so rejectable that this person who loved me so deeply for 6 years, it suddenly occurred to him how awful I am. The shame that lingers now is, ‘why didn’t I leave?'”
That parallel is apparent with Kendrick and her on-screen character Alice, too.
In the film, released Jan. 20, 2023, in select AMC theaters after debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2022, Alice is in a relationship with her partner, Simon (Charlie Carrick), a renowned artist in Toronto. The film opens with Alice meeting her friends – Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn), for a wine night out on the town.
There’s an early glimpse into the abusive dynamics of the relationship when Alice sneaks into the bathroom to send a photo of her breasts to Simon in a less teasing-like way but a more required way (we see this sexual coercion throughout the movie).
The girls are planning a reunion-type trip to Sophie’s mother’s camp in Minnesota, and Alice rehearses a line to tell Simon about a “work trip” that came up last minute.
It’s a lie that she felt she had to tell.
“It just came up. That sales thing? I think it would be bad if I missed it,” Alice repeatedly says in the mirror to herself in preparation to tell Simon.
Throughout the weekend, Simon discovers that Alice lied to him (“He checks things sometimes. I take my phone into the bathroom with me when I shower”) and ends up crashing the weekend after Alice opens up to her friends about the abuse that she’s encountering.
“I don’t want to go home,” Alice tells Tess at one point.
What Alice describes to her friends are very common signs of abuse. At one point, the character says, “but he doesn’t hurt me or anything,” which causes concern with her friends.
“Can we approach this without judgment,” Sophie tells Tess when they talk to Alice about their concerns.
We have an activation warning at the beginning of this blog, and for anyone who watches the film or listens to the podcast episode, I’d strongly urge you to practice self-care before proceeding.
And I want to offer another activation warning here, as I detail some of the abuse that Alice describes to her friends and that Simon exhibits directly toward Alice.
- “Alice. You don’t want me? You don’t want to f— me?” (Simon to Alice)
- “You don’t need them in your life anymore.” (Simon to Alice about Sophie and Tess)
- “You pretend to be this meek little victim. This is something you do. When I’m asking you to do something. This is exactly what you do. I’m tired of carrying you.” (Simon to Alice)
- “I can’t do another thing wrong.” (Alice to Tess)
- “He wouldn’t love me if he knew how bad I am.” (Alice to Tess)
- “You’re such a f—— c— sometimes.” (Simon to Alice)
- “I know it sounds crazy, but it feels like sometimes he can read my mind. And when he can do that, it feels like there’s nowhere that I can be alone. I never know what will make him angry, so I spend all this time trying to be good and thinking of ways to be better to purify my thoughts. But you can’t. It’s never good enough.” (Alice to her friends)
Alice has high-anxious moments throughout the film when she thinks about Simon or sees him. There are episodes of intense breathing and self-harm, constant blaming of herself.
“That line (‘he wouldn’t love me if he knew how bad I am’). In that moment, my character is in such a panic, regressive state,” Kendrick explains. “When you’re in that terror, panic, and regression, you’re convinced of that.”
The actions by Simon and how Alice navigates not only the relationship but the conversation with her friends is something that survivors navigate in their daily lives.
The statistics are alarming, as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience domestic violence in their lifetime. And like in Anna – and Alice, for that matter – the abuse isn’t always physical violence.
Emotional abuse and financial abuse occur in 80 and 98 percent of abusive relationships, respectively. Both forms of abuse can circle back to the root cause of Kendrick’s shame about not leaving her relationship. Still, they are often a barrier standing in the way of a survivor leaving a relationship – which is the most dangerous time for a survivor.
What Alice has in the movie is the support of her friends, who stand by her side, helping Alice leave Simon.
“What are the chances I come out on the other side?” Alice asks her friends. “What are the chances that I want to?”
The friends do a good job supporting Alice throughout the movie, including telling her that she can “give them her shame.”
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) has a good resource for those in a similar situation to have an informed conversation with someone you love.
Kendrick was initially nervous about talking about her situation, fearing no one would believe her, which is common for survivors. But doing so gave her insight and understanding of others in a similar situation.
“I was convinced I wasn’t a credible or sane person. I was convinced that anytime I told any of this to anyone – let alone on a podcast – that I would be interrogated and not believed,” she told Shepard and co-host Monica Padman. “This has helped me a lot with understanding why people stay. I know that people will say, ‘girl, why don’t you just f—— leave?’ Equally, I think there will be someone who goes ‘she’s probably f—— lying.'”
What Kendrick has now – and Alice, with the symbolic going into the water and coming out ‘new’ closing to the movie – is a sense of healing and compassion; not just a sense of compassion for her abuser but for herself.
“Pieces of making the movie was healing. But if anything, that moment gave me more compassion for myself,” Kendrick said.
Whether it’s Alice in Alice, Darling or the real-life human Anna Kendrick, or your neighbor down the street, it’s important to know that domestic violence doesn’t discriminate and that everyone truly does know someone who is directly impacted by domestic violence.
“This can happen to anybody. It doesn’t matter if you are successful or whatever. I have shame about this, too, but I think if I had heard that 4 years ago, I would have said of course. Of course, it can happen to anyone … but not me,” Kendrick explains. “Not because I think I’m smarter or stronger or something, I’m an a–h—. The idea that I could be feeling so helpless didn’t track.”
“And so, I have also thought about the idea that people might hear this and relate to this. I think what do I wish I could have heard? Or something someone could have said to me that could have put the light on?”
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, help is available: Find Help – PCADV.