What I really respect about this film is that it does feel — restrained isn’t quite the right word — but it does feel like there are some set rules that you and your team have made for the film so that you’re depicting a survivor of an abusive relationship, but in a way where it’s not like others that I’ve seen where all of a sudden the dials up at a level 11 — sometimes that just seems insulting to the characters involved. I would love to hear if there were any aspects of this — whether how much Kendrick gets to emote outside of herself or how sinister Simon should be played — that you set up to keep that steady crescendo feel. The tension in the film is so delicate.
Oh, well thank you for saying that. We were really driven by the idea of trying to take the audience with Alice, and for them to have insight really throughout. Our fear was that, as you were describing, dial it up to 11 where it’s not, and the audience can’t follow that the whole film would lose meaning because you would lose that insight.
What we did on set was in terms of Charlie Carrick, who played Simon, he and I had many conversations about how we had to really play against what was written almost and humanize that character there so that he was three-dimensional. But also so that it was believable that Alice would stay in that relationship and want to be with him. So that our understanding as an audience is more gradual about what’s going on between him and Alice.
I think one thing that happened both with Anna before we got to set, but then also happened in the edit with the editor Gareth C. Scales and I, was that we eliminated a lot of Alice’s dialogue. What we decided as a kind of rule in the edit was that whenever Simon is around, Alice becomes kind of mute so that you get the sense that she really transforms when she’s in the cottage with the friends. So when she’s in Toronto, we cut quite a lot of her dialogue, and even more so when Simon comes up to the cottage. For example, in the bedroom scene where he tells her, “You’re so incredibly selfish” and says, “You’re not exactly living in the lap of luxury.” To all of those lines, there was a response. Anna delivered those responses beautifully. But we decided to cut them because we thought it was very powerful — this idea that he silences her literally. And you’ve seen her having fun with her friends. You’ve seen her out and about. You’ve seen her singing drunk on the street. You know that she can be a very vivacious, alive character. But we wanted to show what Simon did to her and how she becomes reduced when he’s there.