“Pearl” Review


Photo credit to A24

“Pearl” is a love letter to the classic psychological thriller genre with its obsession with violence and its heavy emphasis on internal conflict. The stirring prequel to the A24’s “X”, “Pearl,” released on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, is continuing the ongoing trilogy. It stars Mia Goth as Pearl, who is trapped in a monotonous routine of caring for her ill father and family farm during World War I. She longs for a more glamorous life on the silver screen, but her ambitions are repressed by her overbearing mother, who insists on her staying at home and finding happiness in the dull life she leads. Throughout the film, the obvious tension between Pearl and her mother crescendos and meets a deadly end that catalyzes a chain of other murders. 

In the earliest released movie of the saga, Goth plays two roles: Maxine, a young adult film actress who strives for fame, and Pearl, the old woman who owns the property that Maxine and the rest of the movie crew are filming on. “Pearl” manages to proficiently capture and characterize the older woman in “X”, conveying the tension between Maxine and the older Pearl; Pearl sees her dreams being lived out by Maxine, and instantly regrets settling for the life she has. Goth’s ability to deeply convey emotions – no matter which role she is playing – is stunning to watch. In “Pearl”, Goth has a seven-minute-long monologue of Pearl describing to her sister-in-law everything bad she had done leading up to that point. With the array of emotions throughout, from the gentle quiver of her southern accent to the flushed makeup-stained expressions, Goth’s performance leaves viewers feeling unsettled and overwhelmed with how intense the interaction is.     

This film utilizes technicolor-like cinematography, which draws viewers in as the opening credits roll with a vibrant farm setting and the bold flair of the instrumentation. The movie pays homage to early twentieth-century films such as “The Wizard of Oz” with how it relates back to the period of time throughout the movie. “Pearl”, unlike typical thriller movies, shows the backstory of the antagonist and the build-up towards the murders. Audience members see firsthand how Pearl’s sanity slowly starts to unravel as she is driven over the edge by her ambitions and emotions. Initially, it is easy to sympathize with Pearl as she feels stuck in her day-to-day life. Still, as viewers delve deeper into her character there is noticeably something unsettling and twisted about her. Horror movie buffs will appreciate how director Ti West incorporates certain elements that are reminiscent of the 1960’s thriller, “Psycho.” Pearl, much like Norman Bates, the main antagonist of “Psycho,” presents a sense of uneasiness throughout the film, with her sudden outbursts and lack of remorse. But what differentiates Pearl from other classic serial killers is her self-awareness; she addresses multiple times throughout the film that something is not right and that she is not like everyone else, which adds a certain depth to her character. Pearl is a perfect example of a sociopath rather than a typical psychotic killer; she has remorse for killing people and is able to acknowledge that what she is doing is wrong in other people’s eyes.

Overall, “Pearl” is an incredibly well-crafted film that perfectly encapsulates the juxtaposition of one’s desires and the harsh reality we face. West’s continuous unique take on cinematography and Goth’s brilliant performance and dedication to character have set “Pearl” and the entire series apart from other horror films. The “X” trilogy will continue with the sequel “MaXXXine” and without a doubt leave audience members with the same feeling of apprehension that “Pearl” does.