Darling (2015)

darling5

“A lonely girl’s violent descent into madness.” — IMDb

This film was just too pretentious for me to really get into in any meaningful way. I felt like it was trying way too hard to be some kind of quirky, black and white arthouse movie and wound up putting more effort into this contrived style rather than making a movie with any substance. Director Mickey Keating — who also directed Pod, which I reviewed recently, which has literally all the same main characters minus Sean Young, as well as the same music composer AND same cinematographer — definitely knew what kind of mood he was aiming for, but he forgot to put any deep thought into things like dialogue or getting a strong performance out of his characters. I’m not entirely surprised, since Pod had the same issues for me — a good shell of a movie but no substantial filling.

“Darling” (she is given no other name), played by Lauren Ashley Carter, is a mysterious young girl who is tasked with watching an old, beautiful apartment in the heart of New York City while its wealthy residents are away. She is warned that a previous caretaker threw herself off the balcony, and there is talk of the apartment itself being haunted. Throughout the short time that she is house sitting we watch her descent into madness before her tragic end.

** SPOILERS! **

I guess my biggest issue with this movie is, as I mentioned, the fact that Keating’s focus on style and mood seemed to trump his effort to build a meaningful character with Darling. He had this great opportunity to delve into the topics of gentrification, urban isolation, the trauma of possible sexual assault, and mental illness, to name a few, but he seemed to prefer to simply have a pretty girl stare blankly into the camera. We really never get to know much about her aside from studying every facet of her face since she probably stares into the camera for half the damn movie runtime. I had high hopes when the movie opened up with some impressively stark shots of the city — it’s a rare treat when a movie seamlessly blends genuine terror and character development with an abundance of aesthetic beauty — but alas, all I got were some cool upside down shots of skyscrapers and enough shock cuts to make me never want to see another one again in my entire life.

All of the mentions of a paranormal side of things — the apartment being haunted, the previous caretaker committing suicide, the mention by her date that a conjuring of the devil was once attempted in the building — are all sadly glossed over, despite the fact that they could have been interesting additions to the plot if they were explored a bit more. It does what many other greats before it have done — blurring the line and making us wonder what is truly paranormal and what is a product of spiraling into madness — but it just doesn’t do it nearly as well.

The murder of her date was unexpected, and somewhat shocking to witness — him gasping awake unexpectedly and the subsequent suffocation with the plastic bag were particularly hard to watch. But ultimately, like most aspects of the movie — I mean, come on, it’s broken into chapters for some inexplicable reason — I felt like it was trying a bit too hard.

Then the ending just gets plain cheesy, with her talking to Madame on the phone, hinting again at her past trauma, and saying “I think I’ll become one of your ghost stories now” *eye roll*.

Overall, YAWN. Pretty to look at? Sure. But I would have preferred it spend more time making me think — or, hell, scaring me — than repeatedly juxtaposing her blank expression with a strobed shot of her screaming face.

Rating: 3/10 | Director: Mickey Keating | Writer: Mickey Keating | Music: Giona Ostinelli | Starring: Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Young, Brian Morvant, Larry Fessenden

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