Rarely are viewers presented with such a finely crafted film. Darling approaches important and heavy subjects with quality and grace. Led by the stellar acting of Lauren Ashley Carter, the film cares not for simple shock tactics, conventional constructions, or contemporary audiences’ horrible attention spans. Instead we are treated to a film that does not only appeal to the lowest common denominator.
Director Mickey Keating and lead actress Lauren Ashley Carter were not on my radar before viewing this film, but they are certainly artists to watch. Darling is one of the most effective thrillers I have seen.
Our lead character, Darling, is housesitting for the winter in a city in an unknown period. Where the movie is set and when (which is hard to determine) are not as important as the issues explored within the narrative. The house that Darling is taking care of is supposedly haunted, and a previous caretaker committed suicide. If you expecting a typical haunted house thriller, you are incorrect. The film explores trauma and recovery in a highly stylized and engrossing way. Spoilers follow in this review, so do be warned.
Shortly into the film, the previous rape of Darling is made clear as she encounters her attacker on the street. Now that she is re-traumatized, she works toward ending the man’s life, and after luring him back to her home, she succeeds. After cutting up the body and cleaning the scene, it is revealed that the man was not her attacker, but another man. Here seems to be the sticking point of the film. Most reviews tell how the movie shows a woman descending into madness. They do not mention how her trauma re-manifested when she saw someone who she thought was her attacker.
The false identity, trauma, supernatural elements, and why Darling is becoming unhinged are what make this movie so interesting. It is not entirely clear whether or not the house is actually haunted. When Darling breaks down the locked door and screams, it is not certain what she sees. Perhaps the room was empty, and all the haunting talk was just that—talk. Or, perhaps a demon tricked her. Not knowing makes the film a puzzle that does not have a certain answer.
Darling’s emotions, fears, thoughts, and ideas are almost exclusively presented without dialogue. Lauren Ashley Carter delivers a near perfect performance. Her fears seem real, and her discomfort and anxieties are tense, present, and unescapable. She cannot escape her rape. There is no catharsis for this horrid crime, and she ultimately commits suicide. (Whether her suicide is linked to the rape or the murder more so is not entirely clear).
However, that is the sole problem with this film. Rape needs to be taken seriously (and this film does), but it should also not be deemed a death sentence for the victim. Darling shows the seriousness of the crime, and that seems to be needed as of late. The severity of trauma, and the unending damage that it can cause needs to be realized. In an age of rapists getting light sentences, having excuses made for them, or being forgiven, we must remember the victims. Darling succeeds in taking a serious topic and giving it the harrowing attention it deserves. However, for some, it might be too problematic. Overall, this is a challenging and effective film that should not be missed. 9.5/10