Darlings, a Hindi language film from India, tells the story of how an abused wife dealt with her torturer. This female directed film (Jasmeet K Reen directed) stars popular actress Alia Bhatt. There are minor spoilers ahead.
Darlings was far too long, but getting through it to the end was very satisfying. The ending was an original and just about perfect.
Badru (Alia Bhatt) was young. Even before she married Hamza (Vijay Varma) he was unreliable and full of lies. Three years later he refused to sign the documents that would get them into a nicer home. He drank too much and blamed his bad behavior on that. And he hurt, hit and strangled his wife.
There were people who knew how he treated her. Badru’s mother (Shefali Shah) knew. Their friend Zulfi (Roshan Mathew) knew. Zulfi delivered the meals Badru’s single mother prepared and sold to support herself. The people in the apartment under them knew. The butcher (who was a lifelong friend) knew.
Badru’s mother wanted her to kill Hamza. Zulfi wanted the police to put him in jail. Every time he hurt her, she believed his morning after lies and promises and gave him another chance.
Yet, she was almost ready to sign a complaint that would have put him in jail when he promised her a child. So she took him back again.
Finally he did something unforgivable. There was no taking him back. Badru filled him with sleeping pills and tied him to a chair. But what should Badru do with him? This question occupied the final third of the film as possibility after possibility was considered and discarded. Fantasy sequences of him drowning or suffocating in a plastic bag or being hauled off in a big suitcase were used to good effect.
Badru didn’t want to sink to his level and become as bad a person as he had been to her. The last desperate acts just before the ending were tense and revealing of Badru’s character.
There was plenty of comedy in this film, but the hard-hitting message that spousal abuse is not to be tolerated was very clear. Many American films, Maid for example, deal with domestic abuse. This is the first one I’ve seen from India. It tackled the issue in a different way from how Americans do it, but it was well done and worth the watch.
The film is streaming on Netflix.