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Controlled Chaos: A Breakdown of "Don't Worry Darling"

Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.


SPOILER ALERT!!! This is a breakdown of the film Don't Worry Darling and contains hefty spoilers. Do not read if you have not seen the movie! SPOILER ALERT!!!

I thrive on movies like this. Films that make you think, that give you clues through directorial and visual choices. Much like Frank, Chris Pine's character, you can't 100% rely on what's said and you have to look in order to find the hidden clues that are littered throughout. That in itself is the first clue. Trust YOUR eyes, not what everyone else is saying.

There's several instances where you can clearly see the shape of an eye. The shape of the community, which is also laid out like a maze, looks a lot like a giant eye. The overhead shot in the desert when Alice and Jack are doing donuts with their car shows an eye in the dust raised from the dirt. Then of course there's the obvious and literal eye when Alice touches the glass on the HQ building. The recurring eye them has a bit of a double meaning. Sure, it's the obvious "you're being watched" psychology but also your mind's eye is the only thing you can trust. When you're seeing something perfect, hearing something perfect but deep in your mind, something's asking you 'but why?' that's your mind's eye seeing something that you aren't. All these times when we see an eye or the shape of an eye, we're being told to look closer because something's not right.

Also, if you look closely, when Alice goes out into the desert to find the plane crash, as she crosses the Danger line, the sky goes all wibbly. That's one of the more obvious clues that this place is not what it seems and may not even be real. In fact, I don't think the plane crash was even real. In fact, I think it was a subconscious effort of her mind to wake her up, to see that this place was all one big illusion. As we see in a flashback, Alice used to be a surgeon. So maybe she helped a plane crash victim before and her mind was using that to try to snap her back to reality.

The eggs and the sliding glass doors had symbolism of their own. First, the eggs. Alice notices something wrong, picks one up, realizing the egg is far too lightweight and as she observes it closer, realizes that it's empty. She crushes it with her hand and, sure enough, no yolk inside. In fact, the entire carton is like that. Of course this leads her to believe that Frank is somehow tampering with the food. That wasn't the case, as it turns out, but it is a metaphor for being a "hollow shell". You ever heard someone called that? It basically means that they have no life left in them, no desires or personality, they just are living with no purpose. It's a brilliant comparison to the simulation itself. It's a "hollow shell" of reality. Looks pretty but has no real value or substance. The sliding glass doors that Alice cleans daily are also a great metaphor. One scene shows Alice noticing a small smudge that just won't come out. Now, that could be because she was using a newspaper to clean it, OR it could be "a glitch" as it's called in our reality(?). The glass starts pushing her back further and further until she's completely against the wall, the sounds almost cringe-inducing as it sounds like she's being crushed then suddenly, bam, everything snaps into place. While this very well could have been a glitch, it was also a great metaphor for, yes, control. Perhaps Frank did that on purpose to make her "get back in line".

Now let's talk about some of the cutaways that people found confusing. First off, the dancers. Well, if you notice the dancers in a circle, yes, make another eye. Also, the dancers are a symbol of control. They all flow as one, and the whole routine depends on each one doing what they're supposed to do. Much like the situation Jack and Alice have, Jack being one of the guides and Alice being a dancer. The overhead view of the dancers performing show the chaos within the control, a parallel to what Alice is experiencing.

Oh, speaking of dancing, how amazing was the promotion party scene? Frank forcing Jack to come up on stage and dance for everyone, symbolizing his puppet master status, and Jack's arms and legs swinging loosely as he danced as if he was a puppet on strings...oh and the phrasing Frank used "Should we MAKE him spin?"

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Now, going back to the dancers that Alice kept dreaming of. Sometimes they would be all smiles and sometimes they would be horrific, demonic looking beings. It was established that one of the dancers she dreamt of was a surgeon she used to work with in her real life. And when they turn creepy, with stitched faces and dark eyes, that's her subconscious telling her she needs to wake up because she's being controlled, she's being manipulated, and she's most of all being used.

Second, the eyeball where the pupil expands to the point that there's barely any eye left. What do the pupils do in a relaxed state, especially in darkness? Expand. It's a symbol of being in complete darkness mentally. If you're lost long enough, sooner or later there won't be any left to save.

There's two more things I want to point out. First, the flash of red that we see when Alice touches the glass on HQ. At first I thought it was a "mind blown" inside joke but I started to think, wait, it's a blood vessel bursting. That's why residents are told to stay inside and never leave because the more you exit and re-enter, the more damage your brain takes. Then I got to thinking, the men come and go as they please, so why is it different for the women? Because it was designed that way to keep women controlled and subjugated. Frank blamed society for the problems the world faced when, in reality, he blamed women. Keeping women from advancing, keeping them in a supportive position to use as a man pleases, that's what he was wanting all along. Now think about this, did Jack actually want a happy life for Alice? Is that why he trapped her inside the simulation? Or did he do it because he could have her whenever HE wanted rather than her being gone to work constantly? In a flashback, Alice says she just finished a 30 hour shift and only had 6 hours before she had to be right back at the hospital. Jack was getting fed up with her being gone all the time, even said he didn't eat because he was waiting on her. And when he started listening to Frank's "teachings", he fell right into the trap.

The last thing I wanted to touch on was the simulation itself. Jack said that the kids in the program weren't real. So if he's to be believed, no kids are being trapped like the women are. So who's taking care of the kids in reality? Or does Frank prey on people who don't have kids at all? Bunny mentions she willingly chose to live in the simulation because on the inside, she didn't lose her kids. They're still alive there. We know Jack and Alice didn't have kids because, well, she worked all the time. One of the wives inside the simulation was noticeably always pregnant. So it seems they each were living out their deepest fantasies. Bunny got her kids back. Alice and Frank get to spend all the time they want together and Alice is the one waiting on him and cooking and cleaning... "Like a good girl" as Frank puts it. Margaret was the only one who seemed unstable because she, as Alice did later, wandered out to HQ and found out their secret. She ran into the desert with her son but he disappeared after they crossed the border. She was under the impression that they were holding him to punish her when, in reality, he never existed at all. I believe Margaret had such a huge mental breakdown because she was so deep inside the simulation that she couldn't tell reality from non-reality anymore. She thought drastic action would wake her up but it most likely killed her. Is that also why Alice wrapped the plastic wrap around her head? To try to wake herself up? She couldn't go through with it because she couldn't breathe. As they say in The Matrix, "Your mind makes it real. You die in The Matrix, you die for real. The body cannot live without the mind."

© 2022 Nathan Jasper

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