Currently still playing in UK cinemas, following its release a couple of weeks back, is the psychological mystery-thriller, Don’t Worry Darling. The movie – directed by Olivia Wilde – stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, and Gemma Chan, and follows the story of a young married couple, living in a purpose-built community that houses a dark secret.
In the film, Jack and Alice Chambers are residents of the Victory community. They live in a seemingly idyllic, 1950s-style town, situated in the desert in California, where the streets are clean, the grass is always green, and every neighbour is a friend.
Like all of the men in Victory, Jack works for the town’s founder – the mysterious Frank – and he spends his days working on something top secret. Meanwhile, as with all of the women in town, Alice is a stay-at-home wife, who spends her days keeping the house tidy, doing a bit of socialising with friends, and then preparing the evening meal.
Both Jack and Alice seem comfortable with this life, and they are a big hit with Frank. They get along well with their neighbours, and Alice adheres to the one rule of Victory: Not to ask too much about Jack’s job.
However, after a short while, Alice starts to feel a little uneasy. Strange images flash in her mind, she has a half-remembered song playing in her head, and she starts to witness things that don’t quite make sense.
Then one day, while out on a bus trip around town, Alice witnesses a plane crash in the desert. After reluctantly trying to get the bus driver to take her to the site of the crash, she sets off to investigate by herself.
What follows is even more strange occurrences, with Alice becoming convinced that Victory is not the perfect town it claims to be. But can she discover its secrets or will she simply find there are more questions than answers?
Now, before I push ahead with this review, I feel I should point out that since its release, Don’t Worry Darling has been steeped in a fair bit of controversy, with various rumours suggesting this film went through somewhat of a troubled shoot. There have been multiple discussions about disharmony amongst the actors and the director, and this has resulted in various column inches which have largely overshadowed the movie itself.
I’m mentioning this now, because everyone has been talking about it and it’s been an inescapable side-story to the film’s release. However, I have no real interest in discussing any alleged backstage issues (which I know little about); I’m here to discuss the film and provide my thoughts on the movie.
As such, putting all of that to one side, my critique (or general ramblings, if you prefer) are based on what appears on screen. And from what is presented in Don’t Worry Darling, I found this to be an interesting and largely quite engaging film.
I don’t believe Don’t Worry Darling is perfect, and it does have a significant fault, which I’ll come to in a moment, but for the most part this movie hits the right notes. It looks great, boasts a strong central performance from Florence Pugh, and offers just the right amount of intrigue to keep things going.
Don’t Worry Darling is a film built around a central mystery. That mystery involves the truth about the town of Victory, its residents, and its founder Frank, and this becomes a big focus of the film.
I won’t drop any spoilers here, so don’t worry (darling) there’s no huge plot details from me, all I will say, is that the mystery engulfs the film. It is the thrust of this story, and it is the thing all audiences will be locked into pretty much from the get-go.
Because of all this, the film is continuously working toward something significant, and this means the big revelation is built up to a point where whatever it is, it’s never going to be that mind-blowing. And the truth is, it isn’t.
The fault of this film is that the big reveal isn’t all that shocking or original. In terms of what it is, I kind of had a strong inkling halfway through the story, so the end became a little anticlimactic.
However, the big reveal doesn’t happen until around 20-25 minutes from the end of the picture, and even if it’s nothing amazing, it doesn’t derail the film. Yes, it does knock some of the wind out of its sails, but there is enough momentum to keep things ticking along until the credits roll.
So, my main issue with Don’t Worry Darling is that ultimately, it isn’t quite as clever as it wants to be. But that really is my only issue with the film.
In terms of everything else, I liked Don’t Worry Darling a lot. It is a movie which is beautifully shot, knows how to tease out its mystery, and has something to say.
The story – about a collection of people living a ‘50s lifestyle – taps into a number of topical discussions, which are dominating our current political landscape. At present, there is certain cross-section of society who are keen to return to a rose-tinted bygone age, where everything was seemingly perfect (it never was), and this film very much plays into this.
Along the way, the story looks at toxic masculinity, women’s rights, and hidden truths. There are nods in here to The Stepford Wives (1975) and the work of David Lynch, and one or two other movies which I won’t mention, so not to give the game away.
And then after all that, there is Florence Pugh, who delivers a top-notch turn in the role of Alice. Don’t Worry Darling is very much Pugh’s movie, and she is excellent throughout.
Alice is the key character in this whole film and thanks to Pugh’s ability to charm and command the screen, it’s difficult to take your eyes off her. Pugh is an excellent actor in everything she appears in, and this is proven here once again.
As for the rest of the cast, they are all fine. Neither Harry Styles (as Jack) nor Chris Pine (as Frank) are in the movie as much as some might expect, sorry if you’re big fans, but they do what is required with the limited screen time they have.
Their characters serve a purpose and that’s about it. Styles suffers a little from being paired with Pugh, who is clearly a stronger actor, but he’s OK and gets the job done.
Although I’ve not read any other reviews for Don’t Worry Darling (sorry to my fellow critics – I’ve just been too busy), I am aware that Don’t Worry Darling has had a somewhat mixed response from those who have previously reviewed it. However, other than the one issue that I had, I found the film to be entertaining, occasionally thought provoking, and not bad at all, so my response is far more positive.
It isn’t the most original piece, granted, but I feel like it is one which gets its message across and will have broad appeal in time. Not everyone will flock to the cinema to see it, and I don’t believe it’s doing all that well at the box office right now, but it’ll find its audience in time.