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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Addresses the extremely limited options women had in the early 1900s, and throughout most of human history. Women with dreams may be forced to give them up to live a very narrow, preordained lifestyle not of their choosing. The movie rages against this system in a violent way.
Positive Role Models
No positive role models. The main character turns from victim to monster.
This is a woman-led story: The three strongest characters are women and, while not especially admirable, are the ones who drive the story. Very few characters; all are White.
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Violence & Scariness
Extreme blood and gore. Imaginary image of soldier exploding, with blood and gore spattering everywhere. Woman's dress catches on fire; she's severely burned. Character killed, stabbed in head with pitchfork; lots of blood. Another hacked up with an axe; lots of blood, body parts shown. Someone is smothered with a pillowcase. Dead bodies. Characters slap one another. Stabbing a goose with a pitchfork; dead, bloody goose shown. Gory war footage in movie theater newsreel. Rotting pig covered in maggots. Jump scares. Nightmare sequence. Characters eaten by alligator. Threatening with knife. Main character smashes an alligator egg. References to WWI and the Spanish flu. Character considers feeding father to alligator. Spoken reference to a dead infant. Spoken references to killing animals. Violent sobbing, utter despair.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Vintage "stag" film shown for nearly a minute depicts a man with two sexual partners; there's full nudity, sex, thrusting, etc. Married main character kisses another man and wakes up in bed with him (sex implied). Main character pretends to "make out" with scarecrow, tongue-kissing; she sits on top of him and brings herself to orgasm. Main character bathes in front of her non-responsive father (nothing graphic shown).
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A use of "stupid."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cigarette smoking. Main character drinks from bottle of morphine (medicine meant for her father).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pearl is the horror prequel to Ti West's X (2022). It's set decades earlier, in 1918, and tells the story of how the creepy elderly woman in the first movie became a homicidal maniac (Mia Goth plays the character at both ages). It's extremely bloody and gory but well made and smart; it's really a dark feminist tale. Characters are brutally killed with axes and pitchforks, and body parts are severed. People are also severely burned, suffocated, eaten by an alligator, even blown up (flinging gory bits everywhere). There are jump scares and nightmares and a rotting pig covered in maggots. Several seconds of a vintage "stag" film are shown, with full nudity, thrusting, and sex. The married main character kisses another man and wakes up in his bed, with sex implied. She also kisses a scarecrow (using her tongue), then writhes on top of him, bringing herself to orgasm. There's cigarette smoking, and the main character takes a swig of morphine. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This prequel to X promises an origin story, and while it may leave off with more questions than answers, it's still a well-crafted gorefest and a vivid character study. Indeed, Ti West's Pearl, which was co-written by its star, only suffers when taken together in context with its predecessor. Since the older Pearl appears in the 1979-set X, we know that, no matter what happens in this movie, she'll survive. But as the prequel ends, it doesn't really suggest how the 60 years in between the movies might be filled. Although perhaps that's the point -- it might be a stifling, decades-long blur of nothing. But judged on its own merits, this is a very good movie, hinging on a powerful and sympathetic performance by Goth. West sets up many highly atmospheric shots and striking images, including a vicious rainstorm, a flirtation with a scarecrow, a red dress, a dance number, a gothic dinner table tableau, and a shocker of a tracking shot.
An antique adults-only film and "X" images and references link Pearl to Goth's doppelganger Maxine from the first movie. There are also references to the Spanish flu pandemic of the time and to people having to wear masks. But the real key to Pearl is Goth's modulated performance, which effectively shows the character's wants and needs and the emotional cracks that form like fault lines when things twist or go awry. The movie's tour-de-force is a lengthy monologue -- with Goth emoting in long, unbroken takes -- unloading her innermost thoughts and feelings to Mitzy. The words tumble out like boulders in an avalanche. Her transformation into a psychotic killer is no accident, and it doesn't happen overnight. It's the product of her environment, as well as her gender and the time period. To some, those might have been the "good old days," but to women like Pearl, they were a trap.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.