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Dark Sky Films
DVD Released: 9/3/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/16/2019
Since the beginning of cinema, sequels have been a hot commodity. It didn’t take long for producers to realize, “If they paid to see it once, they’ll probably pay to see it again.” And while sequels have been around forever, they really hit their stride in the 1970s and the business of cinematic follow-ups has only grown since then. Just think about how many sequels we see during the summer blockbuster season. Sequels are big business and the studios never fail to let us know that a continuation of the story is on the way. Therefore, it was quite jarring that while watching the film Darlin’, I realized that the movie was a sequel. No, it’s not the sequel to a widely well-known movie, but when has that ever stopped the hype machine? Should you check out Darlin’? (Or it’s predecessor for that matter?)
As Darlin’ opens, the dirty and feral Darlin’ (Lauryn Canny) and The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) emerge from the forest near a hospital. Darlin’ enters the medical facility and, based on her condition, is immediately cared for by a nurse named Tony (Cooper Andrews). The hospital is under the auspice of a local religious organization and when The Bishop (Bryan Batt) learns of Darlin’, he hatches a plan. He decides to have her transferred to the local orphanage, where he will have the staff work to educate and rehabilitate the wild, mute girl. He hopes that this will convince the diocese to continue funding the orphanage. But, little does he know just how wild and dangerous Darlin’ really is.
I watched and reviewed The Woman back in 2012, and while I found it to be an effective thriller, I didn’t give it much thought afterwards. Looking back, it is interesting to note that The Woman was the sequel to a 2009 film entitled Offspring, but it really wasn’t advertised as such. Well, now here we are seven years later and we get Darlin’, another movie in this series which isn’t identified as being a sequel. What’s up with that? As noted above, sequels can mean big business, even when they are linked to lesser-known movies. (It should be noted that all three movies were distributed by different companies.)
So, there are certainly some big questions here, the biggest of which is, “Do I have to have seen Offspring or The Woman to understand Darlin’?” The answer to that is no. There are some flashbacks which make more sense if you’ve seen (or rather, recently seen) The Woman, but overall the movie is pretty straight-forward. The Woman had some pretty strong views on hypocrisy and male domination and these are certain echoed here.
The problems with Darlin’ doesn’t lie with the past, but with the present. Now, there’s no doubt that the story simply begins, but it’s easy to grasp the concept that Darlin’ has been living in the wild with The Woman (even if you don’t know their backstory) and that Darlin’ needs help. However, the script by Pollyanna McIntosh and Lucky McKee immediately goes off the rails. While we understand The Bishop’s plan to rehabilitate Darlin’, it makes no sense in reality – even in the reality of the film. Does he really think that taking a non-verbal girl who is covered in dirt (to the point that her skin is black) and dressed in rags and placing her in a restrictive environment is a good idea? I get that his short-sightedness is part of his character makeup, but even still it’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when we observe that she’s given no special considerations. From that point on, the movie becomes an odd exercise in watching the characters make bad decisions while we wait for the inevitable retaliation from Darlin’.
And yet, that retaliation does eventually come and the last few minutes of the movie is pretty bonkers. But, that can’t make up for the muddled tedium which comes before. Darlin’ does have some nice ideas. The portrayal of hypocrisy and unethical behavior in a religious figure is not original, but the film portrays The Bishop as simply misguided and ignorant in the beginning, but much worse in the end. McIntosh dials back the brutality seen in The Woman and attempts to deliver a more decidedly emotional film. But, there simply isn’t enough of a story here and what is here, as mentioned above, comes off as unbelievable. Perhaps McIntosh should abandon the world of The Woman and try something different.
Darlin’ never explains how they convince her to wear clothes on DVD courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the image has a certain crispness to it, but it also has a look which reminded me of the shot on video movies from the 90s. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The finale delivers some nice surround sound and subwoofer effects, as does the opening sequence and a scene with a car wreck. We get a few moments in which the front channels highlight sounds coming from off-screen.
The Darlin’ DVD contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director/Actress Pollyanna McIntosh. “Behind the Scenes” (25 minutes) is a nicely-done featurette which contains interviews with the cast and creative team who discuss the film’s origins, focus on the characters, and then examine the making of the film. “Deleted Scenes” is actually just one 2 ˝ minute deleted scene. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long