Top Ten Movies of 2022 — Number Seven

Playing the title character in Pearl, Mia Goth has two different scenes that instantly feel like the stuff of film acting legend. The first is a lengthy monologue held in a single shot, Goth’s Pearl finally expressing to someone else the confusion and turmoil inside of herself, and the second is a similarly lengthy close up on Goth’s face accompanying the end of the film. The latter is a small, mighty feat of expression so fiercely rendered that it’s almost physically uncomfortable to bear witness to. The wonder of Ti West’s Pearl, officially the middle offering in a triptych of films but absolutely compelling as a standalone feature, is that Goth’s standout moments aren’t isolated in their audaciousness. Instead, they’re emblematic of a movie that is relentlessly daring in its storytelling. At base a horror film, Pearl both honors conventions and eagerly subverts them. The latter quality is largely in the name of giving depth to the character of Pearl, exploring how the loneliness of isolation exacerbates mental health issues already in place and highly unlikely to be addressed in a sympathetic manner in the late nineteen-tens era in which the film takes place. West’s visual and technical technique is impeccable throughout, but it’s his commitment to honoring the film’s central figure and Goth’s wondrous performance that elevates Pearl. In this film’s flickering frames resides a star.

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