Edinburgh International Film Festival

Darlin' (2019)

Starring: Pollyanna McIntosh, Lauryn Canny, Bryan Batt, Nora-Jane Noone, Cooper Andrews

Directed by: Pollyanna McIntosh

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Lucky McKee's The Woman was a dark and difficult watch that delved into the murky depths of the screwed up masculine mind. What then are we to make of a sequel directed by the Woman herself, Pollyanna McIntosh?

(Spoiler: it can hardly be a revenge movie, as been there, done that, revenge thoroughly and viciously wreaked at the end of The Woman.) 

Instead, we pick up the story around ten years later, with the Woman back to her feral ways, this time with the Cheeks' youngest daughter Darlin' (Lauryn Canny) under her dirty wing. But when she abandons the filthy, snarling, tangle-haired girl outside a hospital (for a reason the doctors there bizarrely fail to see) this nameless, voiceless orphan enters The System, despite the best efforts of kindly nurse Tony (Cooper Andrews) to protect her. 

Lauryn Canny as Darlin'

Packed off to St Philomena's home for girls (it's a hard knock life for pubescent girls stuffed into beige pinafores and forced to rotate endlessly between reciting the Bible and cleaning the toilets in Marigolds) she comes under the control of the smarmy bishop (Bryan Batt) who's determined to exploit her 'taming' as a miracle, with the help of junkie-turned-nun Sister Jennifer (Nora-Jane Noone), who becomes increasingly dubious about the whole charade as she gets closer to Darlin' 

Because, yes, while The Woman focused on the dissolution of a dysfunctional family, Darlin' takes on an even bigger, more sinisterly suffocating target: the Catholic church. An obvious candidate for a kicking maybe (and the character of the self-aggrandising, abusive bishop is hardly nuanced) but in the end bashing the priesthood is not really what the film is about. At its heart and giving it shape and strength and credibility is an alternative family, a fiercer faith: a solidarity of sisterhood, between the orphans in the home and among a group of crazy old bag ladies and alcoholic prostitutes who take the Woman in to their makeshift shelter.

So despite the gore and violence (and there's plenty of that, believe me) there's still a message of hope to be found here. Hallelujah!

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