It’s amazing the lengths to which an animalistic woman will go to save someone she loves.
“Darlin’” is Pollyanna McIntosh’s directorial debut and third time playing the Woman character. The film, a sequel to “The Woman”, follows Darlin’, an animalistic young girl, who, after being taken by a hospital, is sent to a religious care home to be conformed to society. The Woman sets out on a quest for vengeance against the people who took her darling.
“Darlin’” features solid performances from its cast, which sports notable stars including Bryan Batt (“Mad Men”) and Cooper Andrews (“The Walking Dead”). McIntosh is a force to be reckoned with in her performance. She conveys the character’s animalistic tendencies with terrifying facial expressions and unpredictable body language. Lauryn Canny is the true star of the show with an absolutely relentless performance as Darlin’. The other children residing in the religious home offer to the flow of the film their own unique flavors. The most entertaining character to watch is Maddie Nichols’ Billy, whose rebellious attitude pairs hilariously with Darlin’s curious attitude.
The cinematography of the film is finely tuned, with the movement of the camera emphasizing certain dramatic elements of the film. The wide shots of the religious home convey isolation and dread while the tight-up close angles in the wilderness are reminiscent of the unpredictable yet focused instincts of a killer. The visuals of the world contrast between whites and red, and the cool blue tones of the wilderness. Characters are sometimes framed within certain areas in the environment to add an extra layer to the visual story.
Pollyanna's direction is very strong for her feature debut. There are genuine moments between the younger cast that certainly wouldn’t have been nearly without her direction. Taking particular care with action scenes, McIntosh highlights the gruesomeness of it all. There are a few moments where some lines of dialogue and interactions come across a little flat but the majority of the film is strongly directed.
The film bounces back and forth between a straight-up horror film and a lighthearted coming-of-age story as Darlin’ continues to grow throughout the film. The genre-bending offers a heartwarming catharsis among the bloodshed, although at times, the pacing and character relationships feel a bit rushed or forced. Certain developments within the story didn’t exactly feel natural, although most of these issues are reserved to the first act.
Overall, “Darlin’” is a nice little slice of indie horror. The performances are captivating and the general story is certainly heartwarming.