A daring exercise in stark, monochrome minimalism, Mickey Keating’s Darling just about escapes style-over-substance accusations through a combination of beautiful photography, an effectively cultivated atmosphere of uncertainty and dread, and another hypnotic central performance from Lauren Ashley Carter.
Carter (The Woman, The Mind’s Eye, Jug Face) plays Darling, a young woman who takes a caretaker job in a large apartment in New York City. The owner, known only as Madame (Sean Young), against her better judgment, tells her that the vacancy arose under unfortunate circumstances: the previous post-holder threw themselves off the balcony. She leaves, and Darling is left alone. With that, Carter is left to carry the majority of the film on her own. As the narrative unfolds across six chapters, Darling charts her descent into madness with impressive poise.
The film wears its Polanski influences on its sleeve, and Keating and Carter channel these leanings effectively. Coming in at less than 80 minutes, its arthouse inclinations never really hamper its pacing, and while repeated viewings may be necessary to unravel its many mysteries, this is refreshing, original stuff. Its tendency towards obtuseness might put some off, and admittedly its reach does sometimes exceed its grasp in this way, but if you’ve got the patience for a slow-burn, Darling might end up proving to be one of your more rewarding gambles.