Stream or skip? +2023

A Netflix India Original Movie, darlings Stars Bollywood superstar Alia Bhatt in a starring role for the streamer. Produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s production company Red Chillies Entertainment, the film is the latest in the established relationship between the company and the streamer. Following a series of underperforming Netflix India original films darlings break through?

darlings: STREAM OR SKIP?

The essentials: Badru (Alia Bhatt) and Hamza (Vijay Varma) are a lower class couple in India whose love marriage was initially rejected by their mother (Shefali Shah). Three years into the marriage, Badru is constantly being physically and emotionally abused by an alcoholic Hamza, but she remains in the marriage, thinking that having a child would change him. But after seeing that he will never change, Badru and her mother hatch a plan to get rid of him forever.

What will it remind you of?: The films end in very different places, but Badru’s scheming against her abusive husband is reminiscent of the central plot of 2017 Until death do us part.

Notable performance: Vijay Varma’s portrayal as Badru’s abusive husband, Hamza, is equal parts adorable and scary. Alongside heavyweights like Shefali Shan and Alia Bhatt, Varma holds her own and is a menace through and through.

Memorable dialogue: When someone suggests that Badru divorce Hamza, her mother reciprocates, arguing that traditional Indian society has not yet come to accept women who are divorcing (a true statement based on recent events) . “The world has changed for people on Twitter, not for people like us,” she says.

gender and skin: Nothing explicit here.

Our opinion: darlings is a movie that will make you laugh and cry in the same scene. The film follows a woman stuck in an abusive marriage who believes she can change her husband. The film relies heavily on its three leads to get the film’s message across, and all three rise up and deliver. Bhatt and Shah as a mother-daughter duo caught in a cycle of abuse are the lifeblood of the film – partying when they make personal gains and plotting devilish schemes when their backs are against the wall. Varma holds her own against the two powerhouses as the central antagonist who always seems to be one step ahead of them.

But the movie doesn’t really show Badru and Hamza’s relationship before it turned bad, making it hard to understand why she loved him and put up with his behavior. The lack of character development hinders the film’s ability to convince audiences to sympathize with Badru, as we only ever see Hamza’s abuse and nothing of his love (other than the occasional sweet talk). darlings also has some pacing issues and could have been a bit shorter.

The Netflix film leans toward comedy, even while tackling a serious and timely topic, and strikes balance most of the time. The result is quite an engrossing film that will keep you hooked for most of the time.

Our appeal: Stream it. Despite some weaknesses, the film is gripping and the performances are strong.

Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a television-obsessed writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on Vulture, Teen Vogue, Paste Magazine, and more. She can always think about Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You can call them Rad.

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