sat 13/07/2024

Rare Beasts review - Billie Piper as triple threat | reviews, news & interviews

Rare Beasts review - Billie Piper as triple threat

Rare Beasts review - Billie Piper as triple threat

Self-described "anti-romcom" is nervy and edgy

Emotions don't come in half-measures in Rare Beasts, with which Billie Piper makes a commendably edgy debut as writer-director onscreen while affording herself a stonking star part.

Dedicated., we're informed, to "all my friends and all their woes", this self-described "anti-romcom" may be too stylistically indulgent for some.

But see out its excesses and you emerge with a potent look at three very different relationships amidst our rancorous, chaotic times. And Piper, back in our midst for the first time since I Hate Suzie, here confirms herself as a huge talent who never chooses the easy option if something more abrasive will do. This is a movie in which one character informs another, "I miss your misery", and you know exactly what is meant. Emotions, no matter how raw, are what keep us alive.Billie Piper and Kerry Fox in 'Rare Beasts'Piper is no stranger to pushing feeling to the limit and beyond, as playgoers will have noted in her searing performance in Yerma, which she performed in London and New York. In keeping with her Sky Atlantic series from last year, co-written with Lucy Prebble who gets an advisory credit here, Piper once again plays a character with a seven-year-old son, Larch (Toby Woolf), a sweet-faced child who is given to sudden tantrums and shrieks that one feels he may have picked up from a mum who nonetheless makes her adoration of the boy clear at every possible turn.

That parent-child dynamic gets amended to a degree by Mandy's prickly but provocative new relationship with Pete (Leo Bill), a colleague whose sexual candour is second only to a general outspokenness on all manner of topics. "You'll marry me in a year," he announces provocatively to Mandy even as he takes a no-nonsense but affectionate approach towards Larch. But the sometimes misogyny-minded Pete is just as likely to turn a family dinner into a social cataclysm: the scene in which Mandy is introduced to Pete's religious family over a meal is one of the film's best. 

A third relationship is more quietly if no less potently tracked between Mandy's divorced parents: a mum (Kerry Fox, pictured above with Piper) dying of cancer and a sadfaced father (David Thewlis) who has to hear Mandy's admission that she hates him. (Their defining verbal showdown exhibits a strain in the writing not apparent elsewhere.) And yet, this ageing couple on the outs are nonetheless capable of a weary, wary affection that has been achieved over time and that stands in contrast to the ever-impetuous Mandy, who lives life in a swirl of emotion. Her ever-racing mind and heart itself explain the film's occasional tilts towards the surreal and the fantastical: normalcy is not how this character rolls.

Piper throughout is a marvel, her singular emotional transparency allowing access to every shifting emotion on a spectrum one feels she may not herself understand. And I had to laugh - affectionately - during the final credits to see displayed not the words The End but, so appropriate to this movie, "The Fucking End". Mandy makes herself felt right up to the final moment.

Normalcy is not how Billie Piper's character of Mandy rolls


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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