Don't Worry Darling | Picturehouse Recommends

Olivia Wilde is back behind the camera after 2019's Booksmart

Ally Wybrew

13 Sep 22

Olivia Wilde

Release Date
23 September


Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, Kiki Layne, Nick Kroll


Running Time
123 mins

You'd be hard-pressed to find two "buzzier" names in Hollywood than Florence Pugh and Harry Styles right now. Other than Olivia Wilde herself, perhaps, who not only co-stars in Don't Worry Darling but is also back behind the camera after 2019's much-loved coming-of-age comedy Booksmart, which turned her into one of the hottest directing talents of today.

Wilde's sophomore feature-length release has her reuniting once again with Booksmart scribe Katie Silberman (Isn't It Romantic, Set It Up), promising a psychological thriller centred around a mysterious 1950s "company town" called Victory where briefcase-swinging suits like Jack (Harry Styles) drive their perfect Cadillacs out of their perfect cul-de-sacs on their way to work, leaving their perfect wives (Florence Pugh's Alice) to clean the condo, do the laundry and prepare the perfect steak for when hubby finally announces "Honey, I'm home!"

The Stepford Wives springs to mind, and Wilde also cites Inception, The Matrix and The Truman Show as inspirations, teasing something distinctly on the science-fiction side as a gaslit Alice starts to suspect there's something horribly, terribly wrong with their cookie-cutter lives in their oh-so-perfect houses.

Playing with Busby Berkeley-esque imagery, split reflection mirrors and more, cinematographer Matthew Libatique – whose proved his surrealist skills with a variety of Darren Aronofsky collaborations including Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain and Black Swan – shows off his ability to make the audience feel perfectly uncomfortable, as uncomfortable perhaps as the protagonist herself when the eggs she's about to cook crumble in her hands and the walls literally start closing in on her.

Which takes us to the leading lady herself. Pugh's incredible screen presence and ability to elicit sympathy is well known among those who've seen her previous work, in particular Midsommar, Little Women and Lady Macbeth. This role however, looks set to put her in Oscar-winning conversations like never before, with Alice's mental breakdown as her world crashes down around her evocatively laid out, and made all the more cruel by the malevolent machinations of company boss Frank (Chris Pine).

Harry Styles, meanwhile, finally gets the chance to show off his acting talent at length, with previous big-screen appearances in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk and Chloé Zhao's Eternals sadly all too short. He's further proof that Wilde can attract the best talent out there (even managing to pull them away from stadium-filling world tours) and he's not alone, with supporting roles filled by some of the most exciting performers in Hollywood, such as If Beale Street Could Talk's KiKi Layne, Big Mouth's Nick Kroll and Veep fan favourite Timothy Simons.

How they all fit into the grander mystery of "The Victory Project" is a secret best revealed in the watching, as a big part of the pleasure of Don't Worry Darling is how it keeps its cards close to its chest. Here, after what feels like a drought, is an original film boasting fantastic up-and-coming talent whose teasers, trailers and posters refuse to give up any secrets.

Viewers are left to experience the film peeling back its layers in the actual cinema in a way that may remind you of Jordan Peele's work in Get Out and Us – a compliment we would all agree cannot be made lightly.     Ally Wybrew

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Don't Worry Darling is in cinemas from Friday 23 September. Plus, previews on Wednesday 21 September.