Anna Kendrick has spoken openly about the fact that she can relate far too closely to her character in the new drama Alice, Darling— a thirty-something Toronto professional who slowly and painfully comes to terms with the fact that she’s trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship.
It was also part of the reason she made the film.
As Alice, Darling was set to premiere at September’s Toronto International Film Festival, Kendrick revealed to People that she herself had just come out of “a personal experience with emotional and psychological abuse” when she was offered the role. “It kind of helped me normalize and minimize what was happening to me because I thought, 'Well, if I was in an abusive relationship, it would look like that.'”
On Dax Shepherd’s Armchair Expert podcast, Kendrick opened up further, describing the hostility she faced throughout the six-year relationship with a live-in boyfriend, and admitting she felt shame for not ending it sooner. (While Kendrick has not named the ex and has dated director Edgar Wright and Bill Hader for briefer spells, there’s heavy speculation that it must be British cinematographer Ben Richardson, whom the actress met on the 2013 comedy Drinking Buddies and was in a relationship with from 2014 to 2020.)
In a new interview with Yahoo Entertainment, the 37-year-old Pitch Perfect and Up in the Air actress talks about how common, sadly, relationships like her own and Alice’s are in reality.
“A question I’m getting a lot is, ‘Did you do a lot of research? And I think a lot of the people that worked on this film, including me, would say, ‘I didn't have to,’” Kendrick says. “And I think most people that see the movie [will] say that they either have been Alice or they know somebody who's been Alice… I think this kind of abuse is really common and it's really, really hard to talk about because it's really hard to identify.”
Written by Alanna Francis and directed by Mary Nighy, Alice, Darling opens as Kendrick’s eponymous character is invited to join her closest friends Sophie (Wunmi Mosaka) and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) for a getaway at Sophie’s family’s country home. So intimidated by her British artist boyfriend Simon (Charlie Carrick) — a man who has seemingly seized control over her lifestyle and diet, among other things — and how he’ll react to the notion, the habitually on-edge Alice lies and tells him she has to travel for work.
In the country, a week of relaxation, wine and paddle-boarding turns into an intervention, however, as Alice’s friends observe her as a shell of her former self. Or as Kendrick describes through the film’s first act, “Kind of a wet blanket. Not that cool and not that fun. I think that sometimes that's the experience when a friend of yours is going through something… But you have to hope that the audience is going to stay and sort of have a catharsis with her as she starts to peel back the layers.”
Part of the difficulty with Anna’s mentality toward her situation – and an aspect that’s universal among many women in toxic relationships – is that she doesn’t recognize Simon as abusive because he isn’t physically abusive.
In one of the film’s subplots that’s clearly commenting on this, the quiet rural town where Alice and friends are vacationing is in crisis as locals search for the body of young woman suspected to have been killed by her boyfriend. It’s a search Alice eventually joins in on.
“This backdrop of going on vacation in a community where a local girl has been missing for several days was just really smart world building and tone building,” Kendrick says. “It totally makes sense that for Alice it's like, ‘Well, it's easier for me to hyperfocus on this missing girl who's actually in trouble. I'm not in trouble. This girl's in trouble.’ And the more that she can hyperfocus on anything but her own experience, the longer she can delay actually having to acknowledge how bad her situation is.
“I thought that was such beautiful writing.”
It was important — but not the be-all, end-all — to Kendrick that the film was written and directed by women, which is often evident in the nuances and attention-to-detail of how Alice carries herself or gets ready for the day. The film just authentically feels like it made by women.
“It felt really good to be surrounded by women, not [necessarily] because only they could understand it, I think any gender can be the victim of this kind of abuse,” says Kendrick, who recently wrapped production on her own directorial debut, the true-life thriller The Dating Game.
“But just in terms of a willingness to be open and vulnerable, and not just to be open and vulnerable of themselves, but to direct that at others, is something that I think, not that women are better at, but that women have been more socialized to do, so are usually more practiced at. And I say usually, because that’s not always the case. But I felt very surrounded by people who could kind of tolerate me or any performer on any given day being in a really, really uncomfortable space and knowing how to kind of energetically give you what you needed, whether that was like space or closeness or whatever. It just felt like there was a really connected energy on the set. I don't know whether that was because it was a lot of women or not.”
Alice, Darling opens Friday.
Watch the trailer: