PEARL. Stylized Madness of the GREAT Mia Goth [REVIEW]

“Pearl” stands in contrast to the schematics of contemporary cinema, offering brilliant stylistic play and the otherworldly Mia Goth. Is it also a good slasher in the process?

Marcin Konczewski

25 October 2023

The specific period of the year is in full swing, during which even the most skeptically inclined horror moviegoers treat themselves to suspenseful sessions. However, many productions disappoint right from the concept level as they offer nothing new. And here comes such an exceptional production as Pearl. If you’re in search of something fresh within the heavily exploited slasher genre, you really must make a stop at a Texan farm in 1918. Heck! If you belong to the mentioned group of seekers and have heard any rumors about Ti West’s film, you can be sure that it’s even better than you expect. The prequel to X is even better than the first part, which was stylized as conscious B-movie cinema. The challenge here was greater, and it turned out splendidly.

The story’s starting point is theoretically extremely clichéd – it’s the year 1918, the world is ravaged by the flu pandemic, and World War I is ongoing. Young Pearl’s husband has left for Europe to fight, leaving her trapped on her family farm in Texas. The time and place alone tell us a lot about the social issues and rules women faced in those years. As if that weren’t enough, Pearl’s father is ill, completely incapacitated, and her domineering mother keeps a close eye on her. And here begins the first layer of density. The collision of the main character’s desires with the stylization of 1950s films, the established social order, and initially well-hidden madness is the true essence of Ti West’s film. It’s a marriage of elements meant to surprise with their absolutely conscious approach to conventions, the schemes from which creators draw abundantly, while ironically corresponding with them. Besides the juicy slaughter in puddles of fake blood, Pearl surprisingly contains a lot of humor. Similarly, there are tragedies, dramas, and a strange play with a full range of viewers’ emotions. Truly a dense essence of nonconformity. And how creatively the film draws from well-known mechanisms! These have probably never been so strangely connected. West continually pushes viewers out of their comfort zone, disrupts the narrative, and serves scenes that emphasize the psychological aspect of the protagonist’s construction, often with no direct impact on the plot. The creators shamelessly play with viewers’ expectations, as seen in the scarecrow fear scene. Discomfort, surprise, leading down a blind alley – these are things I love.

One could describe this film with many superlatives. One of them stands out: the BRILLIANT Mia Goth. Perhaps no one in contemporary cinema screams like she does. I also don’t know if I’ve seen a role similar to her portrayal of Pearl. Absolutely amazing display of charisma, highlighted by full awareness of what is happening on the screen, an understanding of her own physicality, and complete immersion in the role. Goth performs incredible feats on every acting level – body language, voice, gaze, facial expressions. The final shot, accompanied by end credits, is a masterpiece in her performance. I’m not afraid to use such big words. It stays in your head, doesn’t let you pass by indifferently. Although the charismatic young actress dominates the screen, the overall film is very well complemented by the supporting cast – Tandi Wright as the mother and David Corenswet (yes, the one who will soon don Superman’s cape) as the cinematographer are very well-written, brilliantly played characters.

A few more words are owed to the incredible audiovisual layer of Pearl. The convention where everything is dressed in costumes reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood intrigues from the beginning because certain tensions can be felt. This peculiar play with convention, colors, and frames seemingly taken from 1950s films is not just empty decoration but a conscious correspondence with a bygone world. This, in turn, somehow connects in an amazing way with the present because beneath the layers of brutality, madness, screams of fury, and despair, another great scream resounds in Pearl – the need to decide on one’s own identity, the possibility of choice, and following one’s desires. Therefore, the main character is Dorothy, dreaming of emancipation, for whom Kansas is a prison and nightmare, and her dream becomes an escape to the rabbit hole. This path, quite ironically, must be cleared with an axe and pitchforks. And it’s done in the most surprising way in the world.

Have you grown tired of clichéd, mass-produced slashers and are you looking for something exceptional and self-aware? Then watch Pearl. It’s a dense, INCREDIBLY stylized, and brilliantly acted work by Ti West, which leaps above X in class. Really, not many productions have left such a strong impression on me lately as this film.

Marcin Konczewski

Marcin Konczewski

The founder of the Kon (Horse) Movie fanpage, where he transforms into a film animal who gallops with pleasure through the multiverse of superhero productions, science-fiction, fantasy and all kinds of animations. If he had to say something about himself, he would say that Kon is a pop culture lover, a self-proclaimed critic constantly looking for a human in cinema, a fan of non games, literature, dinosaurs and Batman. Professionally, a teacher (by choice), always opposed to the concrete education system, strongly pushing alternative forms of education. He quietly writes fairy tales and fantastic stories for his little son. A Polish philologist by education. He collaborates with several publishing houses and YouTube channels.

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