- 1 hr 42 min
Pearl is a 2022 psychological horror film that acts as a prequel to Ti West's earlier film from the same year, X, also featuring Mia Goth in the leading role. Goth reprises her character, portraying the younger version of the enigmatic Pearl, and her performance is central to this deep dive into the origins of a character who fascinated audiences in the original film. The story is set against the backdrop of 1918 during the height of the Spanish flu pandemic and the waning days of World War I, creating a tense and isolating atmosphere that serves as a canvas for Pearl's descent.
The movie tells the story of a young woman, Pearl, living on her family's remote farm. Her life is one of forced isolation, characterized by the stifling oppression of her family circumstances, and a world that is overshadowed by the pandemic and the war. Goth's performance is critical to the film, as she imbues the titular character with a potent mix of innocence, aspiration, and simmering darkness. Her deeply expressive eyes convey a breadth of emotions that hint at the complexity and turmoil beneath her seemingly simple exterior.
David Corenswet and Tandi Wright play pivotal roles in Pearl's life, contributing to her unfolding narrative. Corenswet's character provides a glimpse into the wider world and represents the ambitions and desires that Pearl herself yearns to pursue. Meanwhile, Wright portrays a figure of authority and familial obligation, further complicating Pearl's emotional landscape and increasing the palpable tension within the household.
Pearl's dream is to break free from her dreary existence on the farm and her overbearing mother's clutches. She harbors grand ambitions of fame and adoration, inspired by the glitz and glamour of the silver screen. Pearl is convinced that she is meant for something greater, something beyond the confines of her rural life. Her obsession with movie stars and Hollywood serves as both an escape and a catalyst for her growing dissatisfaction with her present life.
The visual aesthetic of Pearl is an homage to classic Hollywood, with cinematography reminiscent of Technicolor films from the golden age of cinema. West, along with cinematographer Eliot Rockett, employs a carefully crafted palette that radiates with saturated colors, contrasting the bright and picturesque farm life with the story's dark undercurrents. This visual style works to transport audiences to a bygone era while simultaneously underlining the dissonance between Pearl's vibrant dreams and her dark reality.
The sense of time and place is compounded by the film's meticulous attention to period detail. Costume design, set pieces, and a score that resonates with the era all contribute to the immersive historical setting. The backdrop of the Spanish flu adds another layer of tension, with the threat of disease and death lurking at the edges of the farm, intensifying Pearl's feelings of entrapment and desperation.
West is known for his ability to blend character study with horror, and Pearl is no exception. The film slowly ratchets up the tension, focusing on the psychological aspects of horror as much as the visceral. It incorporates elements of dark humor, tragedy, and the macabre. The slow burn of the narrative reflects Pearl's psychological journey, teasing out her complexities and the unsettling transformation that operates beneath the façade of her pastoral life.
Pearl's character is shaped by her environment, relationships, and unrelenting dreams. Her story is one of duality—of the persona she presents to the world and the darkness that resides within her. As the film progresses, audiences gain insight into the factors that forge her twisted psyche. The writing and direction subtly gesture toward the future that awaits Pearl, with nods to her elder self that audience members familiar with X will recognize.
The film has the dual challenge of standing on its own while also enriching the understanding of the character's arc for those who have seen X. It strikes a balance between providing backstory and opening up new avenues of inquiry into the character's motivations and actions. West's careful orchestration of the narrative ensures that Pearl is more than just an exploration of a villain's past; it is a character study that questions the very nature of ambition, madness, and the cost of broken dreams.
Pearl, despite its historical setting and horror elements, raises timeless questions about the pursuit of fame and the lengths to which someone will go to achieve their deepest desires. Goth's portrayal of a woman on the brink—caught between her dreams and her stark reality—becomes the beating heart of a film that is as captivating as it is unsettling. Through its arresting visuals, gripping performances, and layered narrative, Pearl crafts a haunting tale that stays with viewers long after the credits roll.
Pearl is a 2022 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 42 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.0 and a MetaScore of 76.