In need of a full-time caretaker to look after her house, an elegant and enigmatic madame hires a lonely young woman; however, this is not an ordinary place. Indeed, this silent residence is the oldest building in the city, riddled with unpleasant stories of forbidden occult practices, and terrible rumours of morbid hauntings. With such a reputation, most people would turn down the madame's lucrative offer; nevertheless, this lovely caretaker is up to the task, even though, right from the start, peculiar occurrences and blood-curdling sounds that permeate the empty mansion's long corridors foretell an ominous fate. Under those circumstances, why is that room at the end of the hallway off-limits? Can the tormented keeper rid herself of the ever-growing voices inside her head?Written by
After watching 1960s horror films while writing, Director Mickey Keating said it felt "right and necessary" to shoot in black and white. See more »
No, i-i'm telling you the truth. I am honestly one of the good ones. Look, i'm waiting for my friends at the bar. Ask them! I would never in a million years just go home with someone i just met, who invited me to their house. If i told them that... and for whiskey? They would laugh in my face!
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Halfway in the ending credits there is a scene with a new girl arriving at the mansion. See more »
Written by Marion Benoist & Fred DeFred
Courtesy of APM Music See more »
Right off the bat, Mickey Keating's latest film Darling shows real promise. For starters, it is visually stunning: the lighting, set design and black and white cinematography (while imitative) are truly impressive. His shot compositions of New York City even rival Woody Allen's famous, yet overrated opening of "Manhattan. It's undeniable that Keating and company know their craft pretty well, and that has to be applauded. However, the overall end product is lacking in many crucial areas for me, particularly its narrative trajectory and plot, which borrow heavily (I use that word kindly) from early Polanski's "Apartment Trilogy",among other films in the "female losing grip on reality" (i.e. Carnival of Souls) subgenre. Obviously, anybody who has been schooled in these films can clearly see that Keating's effort is really just a modern, pimped-out mashup, but with a pretentious, student film-like execution that lacks a unique vision or a genuine exploration into the pathology of its lead character. In other words, Darling looks great but gives audiences very little to process.
I could have forgiven the film's plagiaristic nature if it had something authentic, unique, or timely to say about its hinted-at themes of isolation, female sexual repression, mental illness, urban alienation, or anything for that matter -but it doesn't. The film is an exercise in style and, well, literally nothing else. I am not convinced Keating has any idea who his main character is, or truly even cares; she is merely a prop (admittedly a very lovely one). Instead of giving audiences any type of backstory, Keating relies on the exhausted but fertile "descent into madness" premise- borrowing heavily from films similar to 1980s The Shining in its exploration of the murky area between mental and metaphysical chaos.
However, here this approach is really just a lazy opportunity for Keating to prove his technical virtuosity while allowing him to exercise his apparent giddiness over the entire filmmaking process, sans story construction. In the end, the filmmaker's ego ultimately compromises the integrity of the film, rendering it a hollow shell devoid of meaningful content.
In addition to its shallow and derivative vibe, Keating's film is hampered by a flat and unconvincing portrayal of Darling herself, played by the purportedly budding indie "darling" Lauren Ashley Carter. Without beating around the bush, I can only say that Carter's performance simply belies any credibility or resonance and comes across as wooden, self-aware, and curiously arrogant. I couldn't help but imagine her trying to stay in character, while making a valiant attempt to adhere to Keating's rigid physical instructions, with a "step-by-step" dutifulness (literally, it seemed like she was walking an invisible tightrope the whole time). It's possible that she is a talented actress who was given little with which to work. In fact, the direction must have been based on shot construction and lighting schemes rather than character development/arc or story.
After watching Keating's film I was compelled to go back and reflect on specific scenes from the films that clearly inspired it. Remembering Catherine Deneuve in "Repulsion", Candace Hilligoss in "Carnival of Souls", or more recently, Angela Betis in 2002's underrated "May"- I just couldn't get past the undeniably stark contrast between the craft and depth behind those memorable performances and Carter's here. It became clearer to me that there is so little subtlety, nuance, or honesty in Carter's performance or Keating's film as a whole. Alas, Darling lacks the particular combination of rawness, originality, and vision that made its progenitors so enduringly effective.
Instead, what we are left with is a series of random shots and jarring noises that are devoid of context or purpose. It's really too bad because as mentioned earlier, Darling is a visual feast; and given a more original script, clarity of purpose, and engaging lead, it might have been something truly inspired and influential in its own right.
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