‘Darlings’ Review: A Powerful Message Gets Muddled by Strange Tonal Choices

Darlings

Love is one of the most complex and strange feelings a person can ever feel. Love is blind is one of those phrases that is thrown around a lot in many types of contexts; it is almost universal. We all know what it means. Love can make us do some of the most incredible and powerful things in the world, and it can also transform us into monsters. It can also blind us to the truth. Being in love or having the need to be loved is a very powerful emotion.

This is a subject that Darlings, the new Indian movie from Netflix, tries to tackle. The way the film frames these conversations is throughout the depiction of love as a cage, where it traps us and doesn’t let us go. Darlings, it is a very strange film. The way it presents its story feels almost as if we were watching a comedy. But when it reveals its true colors, we see that we are actually talking about a story of domestic abuse, and the consequences that come with it.

Darlings is directed by Jasmeet K. Reet, and it is her debut as a director. The film stars Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah, and Vijay Varma, and it tells the story of a young wife trapped in an abusive relationship. Shaikh, the young wife, is adamant that she can change her abusive husband for the better by making him stop drinking and many other things, but it becomes clear that this is just a dream. When things become out of control, Shaikh and her mother will make a plan to get rid of their problems.

Darlings

Darlings is a unique feel because it tries to match two very different tones into one. The movie doesn’t really manage to do it, but it is interesting to see someone trying to mix comedy alongside the subject of domestic abuse. We are talking about scenes full of comedy that are then followed by some truly disturbing examples of physical and mental abuse. It is hard to watch, and sometimes it becomes unwatchable, not because it is graphic, but because you know there is an easy way out of this issue.

At some point, one character asks why men become monsters and start hitting women when they get drunk, and someone else answers very simply that this only happens because women allow it. In some twisted way, it is true. To face abusers just like the ones depicted in this film, there needs to be more than just talk. People like often like to be the abusers, and they won’t change simply because someone tells them to stop. There are ways and resources women can use, and they need to use them.

RELATED: ‘Bhuj: The Pride of India’ Review: Falls Flat Despite Patriotism

However, it is well known that most abuses are never reported, and then the toxic cycle continues. Darlings takes a stand against this kind of behavior, showing that the abuser will only stop when he is caught and punished. In that sense, the movie feels like it knows what it wants to say. However, the seriousness of the issue gets lost when the movie changes tone and becomes, for some moments, something a bit more lighthearted. It feels weird and pointless.

In terms of visuals, Darlings is very competent. The director knows how to create this sense of community around some buildings used in the movie and the people who live in them. By the time you reach the middle of the movie, the setting feels completely real and familiar to anyone who has ever lived in a big city. The color palette is very warm, and it feels cozy even when it shouldn’t.

Darlings

Bhatt and Shah both play mother and daughter, and they play their roles very well. You can really feel the emotion and the love between their characters. However, because of the plot, Bhatt’s character can feel a bit frustrating at times. You need to have patience with her. Meanwhile, the gorgeous Shefali Shah stands out in the role of a mother that knows exactly what is the best thing for her daughter. The actress shines in every single scene she is in, and it is without a doubt the best element in the movie.

Towards the middle, the movie can feel a bit overlong, and it feels like it is running in circles. Which is a feeling that serves the plot but doesn’t really make for a fun time watching it. Some people will find this testing of patience as a good thing, while others will simply bail out of the story when the progression ends up halting for quite a while. We can define Darlings as a very solid movie that will not end up being for everyone.

Darlings is a very solid debut, and it has a powerful message that unfortunately gets muddled by the strange whiplash in tone. The performances are quite good, especially Shah, who shines in the role. It is impressive to see more Indian cinema arriving at Netflix. It is a welcomed breath of fresh air, when we get bombarded by the same types of movies coming from Hollywood.

SCORE: 7/10