Full of tenderness, heartache & cruelty, Beautiful Beings is a must-watch film that offers a portrait of friendship despite abandonment. You will gain something with each viewing – brutally fantastic.
After bullied misfit Balli (Áskell Einar Pálmason) is adopted by leader Addi (Birgir Dagur Bjarkason) into his gang of outsiders, the boys form an incredible bond, venting their emotions through both acts of destruction and comradery. However, as the gang’s exploits become increasingly dangerous, Addi begins to experience a series of strange, supernatural visions of the future warning him of their potential fates. Is the group’s future bound up in tragedy, or is it possible to change one’s destiny?
Finding the right people to be around as a teenager to help form you is precarious. Pick poorly, and you could be forced down an avenue that you may never escape, but find the right ones, and you can be well on the way to a happy structured life, even when your familial one is all over the place. Here in Beautiful Beings, we find a group of boys who all seem broken in their own way. Yet, in spite of his fractured home situation, even the apparently well-adjusted Addi seems to have it mostly together.
Yet bullying will appear even when you are around people who can support you. From the male viewpoint, it will be hard to escape the odd déjà vu in Beautiful Beings. The boys will rag and push each other right to the precipice of acceptableness, but when push comes to shove, they care about one another. Like most people around that age, they do not know how to release their emotions and feelings, so they act tough to make up for it. They do what is automatic to them, what they have seen before. Yet, despite that, they are full of tenderness and conscientiousness. Able to reprogram themselves when required to be more human to their friend.
There are several scenes where they confide or notice something is wrong and decide to be there for the other. For example, when his father’s return clearly shakes Balli, the camera cuts to Addi, himself going through his own issues. He can recognise that his friend is in an even worse state, so he sits and tries to talk to his friend. Even if it is fruitless at the time and begins the harder turn the film eventually takes, it is important that he is there for his friend.
Seeing this play out in the way it does in the paired-back Beautiful Beings is actually quite remarkable. There is a freshness present in Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s film that almost knocks you off your feet. There is little fluff around to distract or sugarcoat proceedings. Instead, the film is direct about the situations the boys are in and why they act the way they do. It doesn’t try to peer into the microscope and analyse them. Instead, Guðmundsson is far more interested in simply showing us the now and results of missing that masculine influence in their lives that should be guiding them.
Guðmundsson and Sturla Brandth Grøvlen work together wonderfully here, with Grøvlen continuing his great work after Another Round and The Innocents to create captivating visuals as we watch our foursome go through life. We continually feel we are the fifth member of the gang, watching what they get up to. Sure some of the more impressionistic moments in the film are not entirely essential; nevertheless, they work. Beautiful Beings dark and straightforward nature makes it work so well. We have a film full of continual tension, so when it comes to that final violent act. It almost relieves everything; the film, knowingly or unknowingly, has built to that perfectly executed moment.
Our four young leads effortlessly give compelling, natural performances that, as said, will have you echoing back to your own period of adolescence. Their small gestures to each other or even behind the gaze of another are heartbreaking. They are too young to be able to hide their emotions fully, and continually their fragility betrays them. All four should be applauded for what they achieve here.
We may not have had the struggles that our four Icelandic teenagers have endured, but we certainly will have had a similar bond. What sticks is that last exchange and the importance of having someone be by your side, even if it is for a short time.
Signature Entertainment presents Beautiful Beings on Digital Platforms on 30th January
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