July 10th, 2019
STARRING: LAURYN CANNY; POLLYANNA MCINTOSH; NORA-JANE NOONE; COOPER ANDREWS
DIRECTED BY: POLLYANNA MCINTOSH
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
There is an awesome evolution, in front and behind the camera, when talking about Pollyanna McIntosh’s film Darlin‘. This is the third phase of a trilogy. The first installment was the cannibal horror picture Offspring, which essentially put McIntosh into the film industry. Then came the fantastic pairing of director Lucky McKee and McIntosh in the violent revenge tale The Woman, a movie that is still loved in the horror circles to this day. Now we get Darlin‘, and what’s so fantastic about this film is that McIntosh not only stars, she’s also writes and directs. She has the blessing of the late author Jack Ketchum, and brings a fully unique narrative, while still making sure to continue the arc of these characters. Darlin‘ asks the question of nature vs. nurture, in a bloody intense drama, with strong characters to boot. Darlin‘ may seem like an innocent little monster, instead it’s a beast waiting to break out. For those reasons and more, it’s awesome.
It starts with The Woman (McIntosh) and teenage Darlin’ (Lauren Canny) roaming the streets, looking for food, and when we say food it means any kind of flesh. Dog. Road kill. Humans. Whatever feeds the feral duo. Their pursuit of nourishment leads to Darlin’ being captured at a hospital, while the Woman wanders, with the goal in mind of getting her precious girl back. This leads to the parallel of Darlin‘ being put into the custody of an orphanage, run by the catholic church, all in an attempt to rehabilitate her with “the power of the lord”. Meanwhile, revenge is plotted by the Woman, a retaliation she wants to inflict on anyone in her path. What some will find out along the way is that some people just can’t be changed, that’s because the animal instinct still lies inside of them.
What might come off as a violent condemnation of religion, Darlin‘ is more than that. The major message is a snapshot at how others feel they can control women. When Darlin’ begins to break out of her timid shell, she creates bonds with various classmates, hears music for the first time, learns to eat properly, and becomes naive to who it is that surrounds her. At this stage in the trilogy McIntosh knows how to live her woman character, fully evolved into a knife wielding fighter, prepared to protect herself from all- even a creepy clown. Darlin’ is the innocent one, born into her wild nature, willing to listen to those who will protect, including support from a nurse named Tony (Cooper Andrews) that can’t seem to keep the mischievous Bishop (Bryan Batt) from using Darlin’ as a pawn for religious gain.
The star and performance that rises to the top of it all is from Canny as the title character. Her mixture of being an unknown talent and bringing a sense of reckless abandonment to the role is a revelation. She is a rising star for sure. Although I felt a bit missing on the message from not seeing the first two films, Darlin‘ makes for a fantastic first direction from McIntosh. This is the kind of movie that has a subtle message about humans, that might not resonate while you’re watching it, but grows the more you dissect it. It’s also a welcome moment to see a movie about a woman, surviving the unfair world, written by a woman, directed by a woman, and starring a woman. If anyone was going to make this film, McIntosh is the best person to do it.
On top of all of that, I don’t think McIntosh wants us to see it as just a film with a message, but a film that taps into the animalistic nature of man. It is one of the first female figures that audiences can follow in a franchise, similar to John Wick or Rambo character. The Woman and Darlin‘ are a link together, a beginning and an end, where the lineage of her defiance can continue. It is a release of that energy and the ushering in of a fantastic talent for Pollyanna McIntosh, one thing is for sure, the beast is free to roam where it wants, and we are all better for it.
Written by: Leo Brady