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Film Review: Darling (2015)

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SYNOPSIS:

A lonely girl’s violent descent into madness.

REVIEW:

Director – Mickey Keating
Starring – Lauren Ashley Carter, Brian Morvant, Sean Young

The movie’s tagline says it all: A lonely girl’s violent descent into madness. And throughout the short, seventy-eight minute running time, we are witnesses to just that. Nothing more, nothing less. It might be unfair to say Darling is a simple movie, but it is. With only a handful of actors on screen (and most only appear very briefly), there isn’t that much going on. Doesn’t sound like much of a film. And yet, Darling worked for me.

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With a character study movie such as this, in the end it all comes down to whether or not you find the main character appealing. Do you want to invest time with him or her? Are they interesting? It’s those questions that you need to ask when you start watching and will ultimately decide if you’re going to continue on through the journey or simply turn off the television.

Credit writer and director Mickey Keating and star Lauren Ashley Carter (who also served as the film’s executive producer) for coming up with a character worth watching. Maybe it was her large, expressive eyes, maybe it was the way the film was shot in a beautiful, rich black and white. Or perhaps it was the straightforward, linear progression of the movie. Personally, it was all three for me.

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Honestly, you’ve seen this movie before. Darling doesn’t really break any new ground, but it doesn’t have to. It begins simple enough with a warning printed on the screen: This film contains flashing lights and hallucinatory images.

Darling arrives at a large, multi-story house in the middle of Manhattan, ready to act as a caretaker (read house sitter) for a wealthy lady as she goes away. And like any horror movie, she receives the pre-requisite warning. There is a sordid past to the house, and the previous caretaker met with an untimely demise by leaping off of the upstairs balcony. Peachy.

But the wealthy woman brushes off such events as things Darling shouldn’t worry about. After all, what are the odds of tragedy striking twice in the same house? I love haunted house movies and for them to work, the house in question has to be somewhat creepy, or at least shot that way. And that’s where the director deserves credit.

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The shots are almost minimalistic. There isn’t much really going on in them, which in an odd way is a perfect vehicle for some rising tension. You just know something is going to happen at some point, which of course they do. But until then, you have shots of empty spaces, of a door, various household items. A clock ticks loudly throughout the quiet.

And if the film continued on like this it would become old very fast. Thankfully Darling decides to leave the house and that is when her life is forever changed. Coming back from the store she has a chance encounter with a person simply known as The Man (played by Brian Morvant). Needless to say things spiral quickly out of control.

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Lauren Ashley Carter is great in the role of Darling, the quiet, almost shy caretaker. As mentioned above, the whole success of the film really depends on her performance and she delivers. Some of her manic expressions occasionally border on the melodramatic but are reeled in before they go over the top.

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Darling is a film I’d recommend watching. I liked the short running time because honestly, there wasn’t any more to tell. I would only caution two things. First, it might seem slow to some because of the nature of the plot. Second, there’s nothing here that you haven’t run across at some point before. But with the simple black and white tones, the simple camera work and Lauren’s performance, I believe there’s enough here to warrant checking it out.

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