starring Lauryn Canny, Bryan Batt, Nora-Jane Noone, Pollyanna McIntosh
written and directed by Pollyanna McIntosh
Fantasia Festival 2019 runs July 11-August 1 in Montreal, Quebec. Visit the fest's official site for more details.
by Walter Chaw A promising and at times exceptional hyphenate debut, Pollyanna McIntosh's Darlin' continues the saga of Jack Ketchum's feral, cannibalistic Family with this sequel to Lucky McKee's inexplicably controversial The Woman. A few years after her escape from a family of Evangelicals, The Woman (McIntosh) drops off feral child Darlin' (Lauryn Canny) at a Catholic hospital, where Darlin' falls under the kind ministrations of Nurse Tony (Cooper Andrews). It's an interesting conceit that this wild thing, having seen the dangers of living without health care, should leave her charge at an institution peopled by the same society that had previously tried to "civilize" her through imprisonment and rape. Viewers familiar with The Woman will place that Darlin' is the child abducted/freed by The Woman at the end of that film--raised now to be a knowing, hilarious miniature doppelgänger of her guardian. At one point, McIntosh frames the two of them as they stand together surveying the wilderness, their enormous hair making them look like two pine trees in silhouette. It's one of several moments in the film where McIntosh's sense of humour gets free reign. A later scene set in a car as Nurse Tony tries to drive The Woman a few miles is the hardest I've laughed in any movie this year. (See, she's never been in a car.)
This is not to say that Darlin' isn't afflicted by some of the overreachings of a first film--more to say that McIntosh's intelligence, wit, and absolute willingness to "go there" are harbingers of a long and successful career behind the camera. When Darlin' is good, it's fantastic. I love how fully McIntosh inhabits The Woman: a scene where she slits the neck of her prey lingers on The Woman caressing her meat as it dies, while another follows a would-be rape victim rescued by The Woman's intervention, walking off as her attacker is murdered, too shocked to be overly surprised by her deliverance. There are volumes in the margins of this film about a woman's trauma. Sister Jennifer (Nora-Jane Noone), the Bishop's lead nurse in charge of Darlin's rehabilitation, agrees to help because she sees in Darlin' something of her own abandonment and crisis of faith. Indeed, Darlin' revels in women and other oppressed minorities asserting themselves "naturally" in opposition to the expression of masculine "nature." Boys will be boys, but watch your ass when girls decide to be girls. This is a deliberately triggering family drama, then, about the importance of growing wild in a world dedicated to pruning and fencing--and about finding your own when your blood proves corrupted by the trappings of the world. Living life as a wolf instead of in the imitation of a sheep. Darlin' is groovy. Programme: Selection 2019