The psychological thriller stars Anna Kendrick as Alice, who, while on vacation with her two close friends Sophie (Mosaku) and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn), rediscovers herself and starts to understand how abusive her boyfriend Simon (Charlie Carrick) has been towards her.
However, just as Alice appears to be piecing her life back together, Simon makes a surprise appearance at their holiday home. Alice's courage is tested, but at least she has her closest friends to rely on for support.
Alice, Darling marks the directorial debut of Mary Nighy and with excellent performances from its cast, it's a compelling and emotional watch, shining a light on a side of abuse that doesn't often get depicted on screen.
To mark its digital release in the UK, Digital Spy sat down with Wunmi Mosaku to talk about the movie's approach to violence, why she likes working with first-time directors and the important message she hopes the movie delivers.
It's such a powerful watch, and quite tough at points to watch as well. When you got the script, what was it about the story that jumped out at you the most?
Wunmi Mosaku: I think the fact that we don't see the violence and the oppression of the women. It's not the focus. She's the focus, and the love of her friends. It's trying to wake her up to herself.
I really like that it's told from that perspective because I felt that if anyone was in that position, telling it from the other perspective could become quite defensive. I really like that it didn't focus on the violence. It focused more on the love, the friendship and the people.
That friendship between Alice, Tess and Sophie does form such a core part of the movie. Did you get time in pre-production to work on their bond with your co-stars?
Yeah, we were in self-isolation for two weeks before filming. We had to social distance, but we were kind of all living next door to each other, and chatting, and going for swims in the lake.
We were allowed to do that because it was on the property where we stayed, thankfully. So we spent a lot of time bonding.
It's Mary Nighy's feature directorial debut but she started off as an actor. Did that come across in her filmmaking style?
Yeah, she's great at giving notes. Because sometimes directors will be like, "It's like that other film. I want it to be like that scene in that other film." And I'm like, "I didn't watch that film." [laughs]
We never got any notes like that. It was very specific, heart-led direction.
As you were saying, Alice's abuse is not about violence, it's the psychological aspect. How important is it that Alice, Darling showcases that side of abuse?
Yeah, I think the emotional abuse is harder to spot. It's harder to come to terms with. Whenever I think of relationships and being safe in them – any relationship – I always think about that Marina Abramović show Rhythm 0.
I remember learning about this. She was just sat in a room, and the audience would come in. She had a table full of things in front of her: a feather, a pen, a knife, a bullet, a gun... And the audience could do whatever they wanted to her.
And by the end, they did what they wanted. When the exhibit stopped, they couldn't look her in the eye, because they had stripped her naked, they had carved into her skin, they had loaded the bullet.
When I think of relationships, I think of that. When you give people the option to do anything, and you give them all of your tools, and you give them the things that can make you laugh, and the things that can make you cry, and literally things that can kill you – I mean, two women a week die at the hands of a partner or ex-partner in the UK.
I think that figure probably did change in COVID. I'm not sure what that is now. But I always just think you have to be so careful of who you let in that room, because being in a relationship is being vulnerable. It's giving them all the tools to make you feel as loved as anything, or as little as anything.
I always remember that when I invite someone into my life. First of all, what am I going to put on the table? Because you don't have to give everything away, especially if it's not a romantic relationship. And are they worthy of it, of being in that room?
So, yeah, the emotional thing – all of a sudden, you can find yourself stripped naked, and not feeling safe. But it can happen so gradually that you don't really notice.
That's something that really sticks with me, and I really hope the way that we told this will encourage reflection and hope and bravery for anyone going through something similar, or seeing someone go through something similar, and being the Tess or the Sophie for her.
That comes across brilliantly in the finale where you think it might be building to something that's a bit more conventional, but it ends up on quite a quiet note where they're all protecting her from him.
It was really interesting because Charlie improvised a lot. Mary let the camera roll. It was really horrible. Sometimes he's spitting venom in your face. It's like, you just have to hold your ground.
We could have fought him. We could have done this. We could have done that. But the three of us together were just like, "No, you can wear yourself out, but we're not going anywhere".
You've built such a varied career, such as Loki in the superhero space, a true story with Call Jane, and then you've got this more psychological thriller role. What it is that draws you to a particular role?
I just like good stories, and I just want to be a part of good stories. When I read a script that I like, or that I'm intrigued by, or that challenges me – I work really hard for the audition. I want to be a part of it.
I love anything that makes you question your own standing on something, or changes your mind. If I read a script and I feel like, "Oh, I've never thought like this before, and now the script's made me feel like this" – well, now I'm interested.
Is it never a genre thing for you where you have ones you want to tick off? Like, with the brilliant Netflix horror movie His House in 2020?
His House, again, was just such brilliant writing, and the twist just really, really took me by surprise. I was just like, "Who thought of this? This is brilliant, and I believe it. It's a horror, and I believe it. It's a horror, and I'm crying. It's a horror, and I feel changed."
I thought that horror was just gore and, you know, walls of gore and blood. His House just wasn't that. It was way beyond that. I just wanted to be a part of it. It wasn't a genre thing. It was just like: that's a great script.
And I like working with new directors as well. I find it really fun. You know, watching some find their style and their voice, and to see them get more confident as the shoot goes on – I really enjoy seeing that.
And I really enjoy being in support of that, like, "What do you want? Let me give you want you want." I like that.
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this story, organisations including Refuge (www.refuge.org.uk) and Women's Aid (www.womensaid.org.uk) can provide further support and information. The 24-hour, freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247. The US National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or text LOVEIS to 22522.