Rare Beasts: LFF Film Review

Billie Piper has come a long way since her days of being a pop star and Doctor Who’s assistant. She has proved herself as a phenomenal actress on the stage and now she’s made her directorial debut with Rare Beasts, which she also wrote and stars in.

Piper plays Mandy, a single mother who lives with her mum and son Larch (Toby Woolf) and works at a production company. She starts dating her colleague Pete (Leo Bill) and the film basically charts the highs and lows of their odd and tumultuous relationship.

I had assumed Rare Beasts was going to be a straightforward romantic comedy but it contains a lot of surreal and experimental elements which were bold and intriguing – like the sound design – but they didn’t always work and removed you from the story. The script started off really strong – the dialogue of the opening scene gave me such hope – but then it loses its way, loses momentum and just gets quite chaotic and messy.

The big issue was that I didn’t care about the central relationship. From the opening scene you knew they were going to be an awful couple and I never once believed they loved each other so I didn’t invest in their relationship. I was rooting for her to grow up, ditch the drink and drugs, dump Pete and pay attention to her son, who has anxiety and a nervous tic.

Anyone who saw Piper onstage in the completely devastating Yerma will know she can act, oh boy can she act. She gives a good, captivating performance here but it just wasn’t enough to hold it all together. David Thewlis also pops up as her troubled father and Lily James has a small part as a bride.

There are some stellar scenes with ace dialogue and it had some good ideas but it ran out of steam quickly and felt long even when it was only 87 minutes. I give kudos to Piper for being bold and creative with her storytelling and going to unexpected places with the character but they weren’t executed well enough to achieve any lasting impact.

Seen during the 2019 London Film Festival. No release date as yet

Rating: 2/5

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