VOD film review: Rare Beasts
Ivan | On 21, May 2021
Director: Billie Piper
Cast: Billie Piper, Leo Bill, Kerry Fox
Where to watch Rare Beasts online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Curzon Home Cinema / BFI Player / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Billie Piper makes her directorial debut with this enjoyably prickly affair – a romantic comedy, of sorts, that is determined to do something new and unique. And, in many ways, Rare Beasts does, as it introduces us to Mandy (Piper), a single mum we meet in the middle of an excruciating date with her colleague, Pete (Leo Bill). He displays hints of sexism and barely suppressed rage, and that’s only within 5 minutes of their dinner starting – all red flags that would, in any sane world, have Mandy running for the door.
But this isn’t a sane world, and in a sea of people putting on fronts and trying to improve themselves in accordance with the latest fad, Pete stands out because he’s resolutely himself; there’s an authentic quality to his personal, intense, bitter asides and rants that Mandy is drawn to. And so the pair find themselves going down the relationship route, even though they’re a terrible fit for each other.
If that sounds like a dark watch, with more than a believable ring of authenticity to it, Piper’s achievement is keeping things funny and often light – this is less a kitchen sink lament and more a celebration of two people finding a connection, albeit an uneasy, uncomfortable one.
This exploration of the complications of human connection, of people meeting other other’s mutual needs even amid the potential of mutual destruction, wouldn’t work without the cast’s convincing performances, and both Piper and Bill are brilliantly convincing as two extremely flawed individuals. Kerry Fox and David Thewlis are also excellent as Mandy’s parents.
The more the script tries to include in its slight runtime, the more it threatens to get away from us, packing in a troubled, distant child and a scathing workplace satire to serious family drama and a dose of occasional confessional voiceovers. But throughout this tale that’s bursting with thoughts and ideas, the characters are wonderfully real, and that vivid, rounded honesty is a rarity in itself – and a testament to the talents of both the ensemble and Piper as a director. That Piper would go on to make the TV series I Hate Suzie only confirms her as a storyteller and observer with disarmingly candid insight.
Rare Beasts is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.