Skip to main content

SXSW Review: "Rare Beasts" knows it's broken

Rare Beasts

Source: Western Edge Pictures (Image credit: Western Edge Pictures)

While this year's SXSW was canceled due to COVID-19, we still had a chance to screen some of the films for the festival. Keep your eyes peeled for more news on these titles in the future!

It's weird how we as a culture romanticize the idea of romanticizing. There are all these ideas of true love and how it works and why it's the most important thing in the world. What we don't often talk about is that all of it's completely exhausting. Billie Piper's Rare Beasts is here to have that conversation and so many more.

The story follows Mandy (Billie Piper) as she navigates being a single mother, a professional writer, and a woman who truly is interested in love in the age of the women's revolution. There is love in the film's narrative, but it's wrapped up in layer after layer of pitch-black comedy. It's not even dark humor. It's more of the absence of all light where, if you're bitter enough, you'll find yourself giggling throughout the story. What I mean to say is that I enjoyed it a great deal.

It's not even dark humor. It's more of the absence of all light where, if you're bitter enough, you'll find yourself giggling throughout the story.

Mandy's journey for love brings her to Pete (Leo Bill). Pete, in no uncertain terms, is a jerk. He's the type of man who lashes out because he lacks any confidence in a single one of his traits and justifies that terrible behavior with his love for god. He wants a god-fearing woman and a good wife. Mandy admits openly that she is neither of those things, but the two decide to explore their relationship together all the same. It's, well, tumultuous to say the least.

Rare Beasts spends a decent amount of time exploring what it's like to be a feminist who wants a man. Is a woman less strong and independent because she seeks a partner? Is it wrong to seek companionship with the knowledge that it may stifle you and the freedoms that you've fought for? The film finds a nice balance between caricaturizing fierce feminism and having a real discussion about its merits. That characterization might rub some the wrong way, but I feel like it does a nice job balancing out Mandy's strength with her desire to be loved.

Everyone in the film, including Mandy, is the worst versions of themselves nearly all the time. Some character's worst is better than others' best, as is the case with all of humanity, but the point of that awfulness is to illustrate that all people deserve love. Mandy's parents are the root of many of her issues, but even they find a moment for affection amidst their respective terribleness. In fact, their brief illustration of love for one another is the sweetest moment of the film.

This is the type of movie that calls out all of the sucky parts of love while still acknowledging the human need for the connection it brings. There's no fluffy honeymoon phase or sweet nothings to be found. It's just a raw look at a flawed woman looking for a flawed man who will love her for who she is. We're all broken. It's just a matter of finding someone whose pieces fit with ours.