Billie Piper’s directorial debut, Rare Beasts, is probably one of the most refreshing romantic comedies I’ve come across in a long, long time. The story from a narrative standpoint may have been told before, but she puts a surrealist twist on the central relationships. I’m not just talking about the romantic ones either.
Billie Piper plays Mandy, a woman trying to find her place in this seriously screwed-up world. We start on her first date with Pete (Leo Bill), wherein the “gimmick” of the film is alarmingly revealed. Everyone speaks what is on their mind, unfiltered and in that “what are they thinking” fashion. The surreal aspect is that no one seems to care. No, a virus or magical force isn’t causing this… the device runs much deeper than that.
“…Pete’s first date prediction that he will marry Mandy in one year.”
Pete argues in favor of his religious values, while Mandy seems perfectly content as an atheist. However, their discussion quickly heats up, and Mandy declares, “you’re going to rape me tonight!” At which Pete quickly backs off, and somehow they make it to a second date.
During a development meeting at the media company where they both work, Mandy has to endure the male chauvinism from the executives. The anxiety from this causes her to struggle to find her voice and value within the company. At home, Mandy lives with her dying mother, Marion (Kerry Fox), and her son, Larch (Toby Woolf).
The main storyline follows Pete’s first date prediction that he will marry Mandy in one year. This involves Pete meeting Mandy’s atheist family, including her father, Vic (David Thewlis), and then on to her surviving dinner with his affluent religious family. It culminates at the wedding of Mandy’s friend, Cressida (Lily James), and how their relationship spirals in this overly emotional event.
"…a highly insightful textbook on the subject of love — not just romantic love, but love for our family and friendships."