Pearl – movie review

In Ti West’s prequel to X (2022), Pearl (Mia Goth) is a star in the making – at least in her own head.

It’s 1918, and the combination of WWI and the Spanish flu has many on tenterhooks. Pearl’s husband Howard (Alistair Sewell) – a good man – is off fighting. She lives on a farm with her hard-nosed German-born mother Ruth (Tandi Wright) and severely disabled father (Matthew Sutherland). Pearl lives in a fantasy world of dancing and dress-up. She loves nothing better than a good silent movie. But her mother won’t have any of that. Money is tight and she’s particularly hard on Pearl, watching her every move.

Nevertheless, one day when collecting some medicine for her father, she sneaks off to the pictures and thereafter meets the projectionist (David Corenswet), who takes an interest in her. Her sister-in-law Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro) also pays an unexpected visit and tells her about a local dance competition. Pearl decides to try out.  She sees it as her road out of the dreary confines of farm life and on to popularity and stardom.

Pearl also has an angry streak when things don’t go her way. She can become dangerously violent. The more things go awry the more her behaviour deteriorates. Let’s put it this way – there will be blood and plenty of it.

Pearl is an engaging period horror, which nods to Hollywood’s Golden Age. This most unusual movie benefits from a quirky and strangely alluring script from director West. The attention to detail in the picture immediately impresses. As mentioned, this is the prequel to X – which was set in 1979 – and was shot back-to-back with it at the same location.

Pearl features another eye-catching performance from Mia Goth, who created the characters in this story. She knows how to work the camera and the angles. All the action gravitates around her. The way the story evolves we feel for Pearl and the predicament she is in, notwithstanding the fact that it quickly becomes clear she is unhinged. Tandi Wright captured my attention for the unrelenting harshness in her characterisation.

Pearl is in best-of-type territory. The shocking attracts.

Alex First

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