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Darlings Movie Review: Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah, Vijay Verma's performances barely hold together this one-tone drama

Darlings was touted to be a dark comedy. Even though the film's subject is promising, the storyline is not layered enough and neither is the humour on point. Instead, the performances become the saving grace.

Devasheesh Pandey Devasheesh Pandey Updated on: August 06, 2022 17:26 IST
movie review
Darlings is streaming on Netflix nowPhoto:INDIA TV
  • Movie Name:Darlings
  • Critics Rating: 2 / 5
  • Release Date: AUG 5
  • Director: Jasmeet K Reen
  • Genre: Dark comedy

Darlings Movie Review: Netflix's latest Hindi film offering is Darlings. It is based on the sensitive issue of domestic violence and how women get sucked into the spiral of abuse and struggle to find a way out of it. Alia Bhatt as Badrunissa and Vijay Verma as Hamza star as the couple-in-love whose marriage after three years is devoid of any joy or affection. Hamza is an alcoholic and in moments of rage, which he blames on his drinking habit, torments and hurts his wife. Shefali Shah plays Badrunissa's mother Shamshunissa who keeps reminding her that the cycle of violence will not end until drastic steps are taken. What unfolds in the trio's lives, which are intertwined, is the story of Darlings.

First off, the movie's subject is strong and for the most part, the portrayal of domestic violence hits the right notes. Director Jasmeet K Reen smacks the hammer on the nail right from the start and jumps to the centre point of the story within minutes. We get a hint of what will follow and the film proceeds on expected lines. Badrunissa is hopelessly in love and wants to reform Hamza. She is a compromising wife who despite enduring suffering believes in the transforming power of her love, to the extent that she has almost turned a blind eye to her own victimhood. However, Shamshunissa has an objective view of her daughter's marriage and tells her right from wrong at every turn, hoping Badrunissa would, for once, listen to her. The moments between the mother and daughter are the highlights of Darlings. When the screenplay treads the tedious path, Shefali and Alia's chemistry works in keeping the film together. 

However, Darlings gets too simplistic. The viewers get stuck in the circle of abuse between Hamza and Badrunissa, and when a changeover in tone or a breakaway is needed, the film does not deliver. Only during the second half, Darlings picks up pace, but that too in bits and pieces. Often, the film prefers mundanity over novelty. As one seeks out something different, it goes back to the same spot. In ways, this method mirrors the lives of Hamza and Badrunissa, which keeps circling back to insincere apologies and abuse. But all this does is make the film dull.

Darlings was touted to be a dark comedy. However, the essence of the genre is missing throughout. The movie is unfunny and maintains a serious tone and slow pacing overall. The drama works but the humour is bland and almost absent. The satire works not on the subject of abuse but on the characters, who don't possess any comedic demeanour. The emotions of desperation, angst and empathy are evoked but the movie wasn't intended to be just about that. The liberation comes a little too late but never reaches the point of catharsis. Thus, even though you invest in the characters and their journies, the end result does not give as great a high as it is intended in the story setup.

On the positive side, the performances keep us hooked. The shades Alia shows in Darlings have been diplayed in her previous performances too. Nothing extraordinary from the actress, but she gets by. Shefali and Vijay are the show stealers. The latter particularly has a meaty role on his hands and presses ahead in the right manner till the end. Shefali too plays her part to perfection. Her look and mannerisms speak to us in silence and her maturity as an actor does come across. Darlings is let down by its screenplay. The subject, although questionable, has been treated with a progressive eye. But it is far from hard-hitting as it delves into the ordinary like its characters and their environment.