A perpetually bullied young teen named Balli gets invited into a circle of aggressive classmates by Addi, a boy whose mother is a clairvoyant. BEAUTIFUL BEINGS is an enigma befitting The Academy’s attention. Initially, the film tackles familial dysfunction and violence. Midway, the narrative adds the supernatural element in earnest, changing the film in ways that gave me goosebumps.
As we witness Balli’s emotional torture and beatings, Addi grows a conscience by entering Balli’s debris-ridden home. The boys have more in common than at first glance. Siggi and Konni complete this group of boys known for starting fights. Addi’s narration adds depth as he explains each boy’s tumultuous home life. The cyclical nature of violence is front and center. BEAUTIFUL BEINGS is often intense and grueling to watch. But the performances captivate so thoroughly the audience pushes on. Once Addi begins to feel the power his mother passed onto him, the story takes another visually stunning turn.
The exploration of toxic masculinity is countered with the study of male friendships. The emotional highs and lows swing wildly during the two-hour runtime. The film appears to take place in the early aughts. I assume this is key in including the term “retarded,” which echoes nearly a dozen times. As a mother of a child on the spectrum, I cringed each time I heard it. That is my only complaint with BEAUTIFUL BEINGS. As a whole, this film is unique, fearless, and crucial viewing.
Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s Crushing and Surreal, Multi-Award-Winning
Original title: Berdreymi
Starring: Birgir Dagur Bjarkason, Áskell Einar Pálmason, Viktor Benóný Benediktsson, Snorri Rafn Frímannsson, Aníta Briem, Ísgerður Gunnarsdóttir, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson
Written and Directed by: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson
Produced by: Anton Máni Svansson
Specs: 2022 / 123 Minutes / In Icelandic w/English Subtitles / DCP / 1.85:1
World Premiere: Berlin International Film Festival – Panorama 2022 — Europa Cinemas Label Winner
Off Camera International Festival of Independent Cinema — FIPRESCI Jury Award Winner
Taipei Film Festival — International New Talent Competition – Special Jury Prize Winner
Thessaloniki Film Festival — Open Horizons Audience Award Winner
Stockholm Film Festival — Best Screenplay Winner
ABOUT ALTERED INNOCENCE
Altered Innocence was founded in 2015 with a focus on bringing international and cutting-edge LGBTQ and Coming-of-Age cinema to North American audiences. Notable releases have included the Cannes Competition film KNIFE+HEART and the U.S. premiere of Spain’s previously unreleased cult title ARREBATO (RAPTURE).