Directed By: Pollyanna McIntosh, Written By: Pollyanna McIntosh, Starring: Pollyanna McIntosh, Lauryn Canny, Nora-Jane Noone & Bryan Batt.
The Woman is a 2011 movie from director Lucky McKee. A decent movie at that. It told the story of a feral woman, the last surviving member of a wild clan of cannibals. One day while bathing in a lake, she is discovered and captured by a hunter who takes her home to his family. His family, however, are a million times removed from your usual apple pie, American family, and after restraining the Woman, they subject her to abuse, boiling water baths and rape.
Like I said, it was a decent movie, but decent enough to require a sequel? I would have to go with a nope.
If you remember the first movie, the Woman eventually escapes but she doesn’t flee alone. She leaves her abusers behind with their youngest daughter, ‘Darlin’ in tow.
Skip forward a few years and we arrive at the beginning of Darlin. Darlin is all grown up now and the feral protege of the Woman. For reasons that aren't clear at first, the woman drops Darlin off at a hospital before retreating back into the forest. After being checked over and cleaned up, Darlin is shipped off to a Catholic school, so that, with the grace of God, she may become tamed and civilised.
Now, far be it from me to court controversy, but for anyone who can’t see what’s coming next, it must be a blissfully sheltered world you inhabit.
If I have to spell it out, the Bishop is a sexual predator who likes nothing more than a little one-on-one time with the young girls in his congregation. It’s at this point that Father Scumbag discovers Darlin’s little secret and the reason for her hospital visit. Her last human meal has knocked her up.
That is really all the plot has to offer. The first movie worked because it was a shocking revelation when we discovered just how dysfunctional and screwed up the family was. If you can’t see this Bishop’s intentions from the minute he appears on screen, then I would have to question whether you were accidently watching something else. Seriously, the dude has Pedophile written all over him. It’s not a shocking reveal, and it renders the movie flat and predictable. This was the biggest problem. The movie feels pointless and consequently struggles to hold your attention.
Whenever I set out to review a film, I like to invest every ounce of attention into it but Darlin didn’t make my job an easy one.
The performances are not too bad although, after a while, grown women growling at everything becomes unintentionally funny. The worst of the performances falls at the feet of Bryan Batt as the Bishop. He is so obviously predatory that they may as well have cast Rolf Harris in the part. I had the same problem with the shot for shot remake of Psycho (1998). Vince Vaughn was awful in that movie because he was quite clearly psychotic from the moment he was introduced.
Pollyanna McIntosh returns to the role of the woman but is now sidelined in favour of Darlin (Lauryn Canny) who does a decent job of carrying the movie. McIntosh also directs this time around, and she doesn’t make a bad job of climbing behind the camera. The direction is great, but it doesn’t compensate for a week story.
I just don’t understand the point of this sequel. The first film was a look into the dark heart that hides behind the doors of Americana. It delved into the lengths and depth that the truly depraved could sink to if there was no consideration for consequences. The woman is wild. Nobody knows she is there, nobody knows she exists so there can’t be any retribution, right? The social commentary for this film seems to be that all catholic priests are perverted sex offenders. Now I’m sure that’s not the case. Although pedophiles seems to be an epidemic among the Catholic religion, they can’t all be monsters, surely? Can they? Even I’m not that cynical.
I also found it incredible and therefore unbelievable that Darlin is transformed from a snarling, feral animal to a polite, well mannered and well-spoken teenager over such a small period of time. Having spend much of her life living like a wild dog, there is no conceivable way she could adjust and evolve over mere months. I’m all for suspension of disbelief as long as the audience isn’t being treated like complete idiots.
There are other things at work within the film that could have been better developed. The subtext of the Catholic churches attitude towards abortion and a woman's right to choose is touched on, but in a ‘if you’re not paying attention it will go right over your head’ kinda way.
There is a better movie in here somewhere, but sadly what we end up with is not that film. As someone who enjoyed The Woman, I found Darlin to be a huge disappointment. The sad truth is that some films just don’t need a sequel, yet they get one regardless.
The only interesting characters are Nora-Jane Noone’s (The Descent) Sister Jennifer whose faith and loyalty to the Bishop are severely tested by the treatment of Darlin, and Cooper Andrews kindly nurse, Tony. Every other character feels like a cliche.
I’m not suggesting that Darlin is so awful that nobody will enjoy it. It just felt empty and unworthy as a follow up to a movie that I had enjoyed, in the same way that direct to video sequels of the 80s and 90s did nothing for the legacy of the better movies they followed. I’m fairly confident that in a few weeks this will become one of those films that I simply forget I ever watched.