Darlings Review: Alia Bhatt Netflix Movie Doesn’t Understand What ‘Dark Comedy’ Is

Darlings — the new Alia Bhatt movie, out Friday on Netflix — purports to be a black comedy revenge thriller. In it, a young woman (Bhatt) stuck in an abusive marriage seeks vengeance for the years of violence afflicted on her by her alcoholic husband (Vijay Varma). When it comes to time spent though, the movie is weirdly split evenly between the torture Bhatt’s character goes through, and the plans she concocts after she’s pushed past her breaking point. But not only does it make you wait too long for the kicker — it takes half of the movie’s 134-minute runtime — Darlings doesn’t really know how to raise the stakes and which direction to head in even after that pivotal moment. It ambles on as previously, with the narrative momentum never really picking up.

On one level, that’s because Darlings — directed by feature debutante Jasmeet K. Reen, off a screenplay she co-wrote with Parveez Sheikh (Queen, BellBottom) — is more a comedy of errors than a dark comedy honestly. At times, it’s more like a Hrishikesh Mukherjee movie, say Gol Maal, than a proper black comedy revenge thriller in its vein, à la Promising Young Woman. Leading up to release, the cast and crew of Darlings attempted to “educate” audiences on what the phrase dark comedy means. But as the Netflix film shows, they themselves do not understand it either. This results in a tonal imbalance, with Darlings unnecessarily shifting between various genres. If you’re making a dark comedy as you purport, everything needs to follow in that direction from minute 1.

Darlings’ inability to pick a lane proves that Bollywood is ultimately too afraid to actually get dark. But at times, it’s not even about big changes — but rather, the order of mixing the ingredients. Take for instance, a character who hides their trauma behind dialogues that come across as jokey. Except we only learn this towards the end when the Netflix movie reveals said character’s past. Darlings would have been better off if it gave us this reveal early on. Because then, this character’s words all movie would be taken as comedic by other characters, but they would take a much darker meaning for the audience. By doing the opposite, the lines are comedic for us too. It’s failures like these that ultimately keep Darlings from being what it desires to be.

Everything You Need to Know About Darlings