Mandy (Billie Piper) a nihilistic young writer and mother who, while navigating her dysfunctional family and misogynistic workplace, falls for Pete (Leo Bill), a traditionalist searching for ‘restored’ male identity.
Comedy | Drama | Romance | 2021
Billie Piper, David Thewlis, Lily James, Leo Bill, Kerry Fox, Toby Woolf
Rare Beasts is the dark, funny, failed love story of Mandy and Pete. The film begins on their first date. Mandy is a bit stoned, enjoying acting on impulse in Pete’s company. Pete is a straight talker, a man questioning the idea of the modern woman, seeing women as hypocrites wanting to have their cake and eat it, but he encourages indulgence and self-satisfaction. He admires devotion and longing in a relationship, believes in the sanctity of marriage, and even more surprisingly, in God. Mandy believes in neither but finds his honesty refreshing. He predicts they’ll marry within a year. No point wasting time and “haemorrhaging your youth”. Pete is full-on, his attention and views overwhelming – Mandy throws up.
Mandy lives with her mother, MARION, and her 7 year old son LARCH. Her wayward father VIC turns up from time to time, still tormenting her besotted mother years after their divorce. It’s hard to tell which is the harshest of her two worlds – this small, claustrophobic home, or the obnoxious TV company she works at with Pete. She sits in development meetings, witness to the crass exploration of “gender issues” by men and women desperately trying to stay relevant and employed. Lusting after Pete is a welcome distraction, as it’s very clear Mandy isn’t excelling at her job, such is the demand for her to deliver stories of optimism - a feeling she just can’t match. Mandy can’t feel close to the other women in her life – her colleagues, her coke-fuelled friends, and she questions her self-worth. Reflecting this, a theatrical chorus of women recur throughout the film, providing an oppressive muttering noise of Mandy’s inner mantra that even though she feels scared and angry, she still loves and respects herself.
Pete wants to meet Larch, but the day of their meeting descends into chaos when Larch’s behavioural problems take over, he has a temper tantrum and ends up in a screaming heap on the ground. At home, Mandy’s foreplay involves an awkward striptease for Pete, as she introduces her physical flaws one by one before she can relax enough for them to have sex. Afterwards, Pete invites her and Larch to a family wedding in Greece.
There, Mandy is overwhelmed by his rich, outspoken family. The wedding ceremony is beautiful but archaic, with a focus on the wife obeying her husband; the bride reveals to Mandy after that she chose it herself, saying she’s a “post post post feminist”. She can afford to be. Within this tight, posh media circle, it’s only half a surprise to meet an ex of Mandy’s, the real shock comes as we realise that he’s Larch’s father. Pete is appalled by Mandy’s decision to keep this truth from Larch, sparking a huge row where neither backs down - they slap each other and separate. Mandy runs away while Pete stumbles into MEREDITH, abundantly young and uncomplicated.
Back in England, Mandy is hit by the news that Marion has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, made worse by the fact that she told the bastard Vic before her. Spiralling, Mandy asks Pete to marry her; he says yes. At work, she causes an uproar by pitching a show about an aged, broken woman, preparing to commit suicide: “This is Beyonce. And this is her suicide note.” She’s fired, and as she leaves, she chucks a chair through the glass meeting room and runs out, laughing with Pete.
As Marion dies, both Mandy’s and her parents’ relationships reach their respective crescendos. Vic begs for forgiveness, Marion asks for a ‘truth’ about their relationship she can die with. He kindly lies as it’s the least he can do. Meanwhile Mandy and Pete are falling apart. Feeling Pete grow tired of her complexity, her struggle for happiness and a life that drags them both down, Mandy taunts him with an image of her infidelity. His reaction is to seek out Meredith, the younger, less complicated woman he met at the wedding. Pete becomes a let-down and he knows it.
Some months after their split, she and Pete meet up again and seeing him still guilt-ridden and struggling with the disappointment that he has been, Mandy channels all her love towards her son. In the final scene, the female chorus return and heckle Pete – the coward, the bastard, the man and then they turn on Mandy as she finally admits she wants an easy life, a five-hour day, and a nice bloke. The forbidden thoughts of a modern woman are laid bare for all of us to have a think about. The ‘modern’ women throw things at her.
Mandy turns to look at Larch. She beams at him. “I love you.”Larch says he loves her too. Together, they walk off. In beautiful font: The FUCKING END