Anna Kendrick Is Transfigured in Portrait of Abuse – The Hollywood Reporter


The uptight friend, the quirky leading lady, the semi-rebellious college radio DJ harnessing the melodic potential of solo red cups: these are the roles Anna Kendrick has been relegated to for most of her career, an eclectic mix of largely comical vehicles. Even after the actress earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in In the airshe still seemed more likely to play a Scholarship than a Natalie.

But in the emotionally disturbing debut of Mary Nighy alice dear, Kendrick is transfigured, stating that she has always had depth and scope. The actress plays Alice, a vulnerable and emotionally battered woman from an insidiously abusive relationship. Kendrick begins by channeling a fragility, as if Alice is porcelain and any sudden movement from her boyfriend Simon (Charlie Carrick) or her friends Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) could tear her apart. Then her performance, under Nighy’s confident direction, changes. She grows, shrinks, and swells again, reflecting the emotional swing of the abuse.

alice dear

The bottom line

Sensitive and exciting.

Event: Toronto International Film Festival (Gala)
To emit: Anna Kendrick, Kaniethiio Horn, Wunmi Mosaku, Charlie Carrick
Director: mary night
Screenwriter: alana franci

1 hour 29 minutes

It is through Alice’s compulsions (pulling strands of hair, wrapping them tightly around her index finger, obsessively counting calories) that we see the cruelty of their relationship. Nighy prefers suggestion to explanation. Through brief flashbacks, deftly interspersed by editor Gareth C. Scales, we learn that Simon, a fickle painter, has ingratiated himself with Alice’s psyche. He pursues her, so much so that when Sophie and Tess invite Alice to spend a weekend at Sophie’s cabin, Alice tells Simon that she is going on a work trip. She rehearses the lie as he brings coffee and pastries from a cafeteria, her recitation communicating another level of fear and despair.

On the way to the lake house, Alice can’t stop thinking about Simon. Her lie eats away at her every time her phone rings with a text from him. Her seemingly direct desire for her to have a safe flight becomes food for her anxieties. Another text message asking if she’s thinking about him feels not only suspicious, but sinister. Simon’s frenetic communication style, marked by the frequency, timing, and tone of his messages, is calculated and coercive; he keeps it on Alice’s mind even, and especially, when she tries to break free of it.

most of alice dear it is located in the quiet rural village that surrounds the farmhouse. When the trio arrives, they make a quick stop at a convenience store, where Alice sees a flyer for a missing girl. The local case consumes our protagonist, who even joins the search party’s efforts to find the teenager. This is the most curious part of Alanna Francis’ otherwise fully realized and contained script: it’s hard to discern what the case is trying to tell us without diverting our attention from Alice’s already gripping narrative. As Alice becomes more interested in the case, her purpose becomes darker.

What is clear is that the physical distance and time away from Simon help Alice gain perspective on their relationship. But it is not an easy process. A few days after the trip, Tess and Alice get into a devastating fight that leaves them unsure about their friendship. Sophie, obedient and motherly, forces a confrontation by hiding Alice’s phone and leaving the women alone to chat. One of the most absorbing parts of alice dear is watching Alice, Sophie and Tess interact with each other throughout the weekend, to witness the frustrating moments of misunderstanding and the triumphant moments of clarity. Kendrick, Mosaku, and Horn have a natural relationship, making it easy to invest in their friendship. We silently plead with Sophie and Tess to see below the surface of Alice’s outbursts of anger and her tendency to isolate herself from her. We want Alice to feel safe enough to trust her teammates.

Their tense conversations and tender moments are guided by Owen Pallett’s menacing score. The tense, rippling music is the closest we get to feeling Alice’s constant sense of impending doom. Mike McLaughlin’s unsentimental cinematography helps maintain the whiny mood.

Without her phone, Alice relaxes and that makes her talk more about her relationship with Simon. Listening to the anecdotes of the insults, complaints and accusations that she throws at him reinforces Tess’s, Sophie’s and, by extension, the viewer’s thoughts about the depth of the abuse. alice dear It is a portrait of contrasts. By constantly building an impression of how the abuse affects Alice’s behavior in the first half, Nighy adds an urgent layer to the character’s changes in the second half. Alice indulges in sugary food, takes photos at Tess’s birthday party, and turns down her friends’ offer to return her cell phone.

The third act of alice dear it’s particularly striking in the way it uses pre-built tension. Not hearing from Alice, Simon uses more extreme tactics to see her and try to restore her toxic dynamic. But Sophie and Tess helped Alice reconnect with herself, filling her with love and strengthening her bond. This proves to be Alice’s saving grace, giving her the permission and power to imagine a life without Simon.


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