A ragtag group of Icelandic youths drink, smoke, experiment with drugs and beat people up in this hard-hitting yet poignant tale about the joys and limits of male friendships.
Dir. Guomundur Arnar Guomundsson
2022 | Iceland | Drama | 123 min | 1.85:1 | Icelandic
R21 (passed clean) for sexual violence and some mature content
Cast: Birgir Dagur Bjarkason, Askell Einar Palmason, Viktor Benony Benediktsson
Plot: A teenage boy, raised by a mother who considers herself psychic, takes a bullied kid into his group of violent misfits.
Awards: Won Label Europa Cinemas & Nom. for Panorama Audience Award & Teddy Award (Berlinale)
International Sales: New Europe Film Sales
Subject Matter: Moderate – Male Friendships; Youth Violence; Bullying
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
How are youth friendships in male gangs like? Beautiful Beings shows us two sides of the same coin—the nasty as well as the empathetic, without the need to portray these traits as mutually exclusive. A person can be sadistic and compassionate at the same time.
In Guomundur Guomundsson’s sophomore feature, an award-winning film from Berlinale earlier this year, we are thrown headfirst into a gang headed by Konni, who is aggressive and violent.
His ‘second-in-command’, Addi, the protagonist of the film, is saner in comparison, but he is haunted by a burgeoning ability to ‘sense’ things before they go wrong, which he inherits from his clairvoyant mother.
Addi takes in Balli, a reclusive younger boy from a severely dysfunctional family, who has always been a ready target for bullies. Siggi, the least developed of the quartet, tags along.
“I don’t wanna end up seriously harming anyone, even if they’re an asshole.”
This ragtag group of Icelandic youths drink, smoke and experiment with drugs as if there is no tomorrow. Occasionally, Konni would lead them to beat people up.
Beautiful Beings is a hard-hitting coming-of-age film that revels unexpectedly in its poignancy. This is what makes Guomundsson’s work compelling from start to end—because his approach allows nuance and sensitivity to operate within a harsh reality without any aspect feeling at odds with another.
In terms of performances, they are naturalistic and some of the best you’ll see this year from a group of unknowns who are mostly making their acting debuts. The joys and limits of male friendships are put under the microscope, but under Guomundsson’s hands, scrutiny becomes poetic, possibly even mythic.