Pearl – TIFF 2022

Pearl – TIFF 2022

The story of how Pearl became the vicious killer seen in “X.”

The backstory of the villain of X is told in . Set during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, Pearl () is a farmgirl with dreams of being a star, though she is held down by her strict German mother, Ruth (Tandi Wright). While in town, Pearl visits the local moviehouse and befriends its seductive projectionist (), whom Pearl is attracted to despite being married. When told by her sister-in-law Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro) about an upcoming dance audition, Pearl believes that her dreams are about to come true. However, when things don't quite go her way, the darker nature of Pearl comes to the surface.

Pearl is a prequel to director Ti West's X, from earlier this year, which was shot back-to-back with the earlier film on location in New Zealand amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with co-writer and star Mia Goth, Pearl reimagines the elderly villain of X as a young Texas farm girl who has dreams of stardom, despite already showing some sociopathic tendencies. Pearl is ruled with an iron fist by her mother, Ruth, who has Pearl frequently caring for her comatose father (Matthew Sunderland). When Pearl finally gets a chance to achieve stardom, it threatens to make her cross the edge of sanity.

While technically a prequel to X, Ti West presents Pearl as a standalone story that trades in the exploitation slasher film vibes for a technicolour fantasy, which is more akin to The Wizard of Oz than a straightforward horror film. Mia Goth arguably gives the best performance of her decade-long career as someone whose dreams of stardom are the only thing causing Pearl to hold on to her sanity.

While the body count in Pearl is much smaller than in X, some of Mia Goth's best scenes in the film involve decidedly non-horror moments. This includes a fascinating interaction with a scarecrow in a field and Pearl's dance audition, which is exceptionally well-choreographed. Then, there's the extended final shot of Pearl, which says everything about the character's state of mind without saying a word.

Altogether, Pearl is the type of prequel that adds to the overall story while not being a complete rehash. It's quite possible that audiences will now view X in an entirely new light after learning the backstory of Pearl. It will be interesting to see what direction Ti West and Mia Goth go next for the just-announced 1980s-set X-sequel Maxxxine.

Trailer for Pearl – TIFF 2022

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How to Watch Pearl – TIFF 2022

Where to Stream Pearl – TIFF 2022

Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.