Rare Beasts

UK, 2019, 87 mins
Director: Billie Piper

+ Q&A with writer-director Billie Piper (on Saturday 22 May only).

Mandy (Billie Piper) is a mother, a writer, a nihilist. Mandy is a modern woman in a crisis. Raising a son, Larch (Toby Woolf) in the midst of a female revolution, mining the pain of her parents’ separation and professionally writing about a love that no longer exists, she falls upon a troubled man, Pete (Leo Bill), who is searching for a sense of worth, belonging and ‘restored’ male identity.

Rare Beasts is a pitch black comedy and is Billie Piper’s directorial debut.

Director’s Statement

It was important to me when making the film that the visual language of the film felt heightened and metaphorical. This is the world as Mandy sees it. For example, the women tapping their heads is actually a style of therapy called ‘tapping’ or EFT. You tap your energy meridians whilst using positive affirmations. I used this once with little effect but it inspired that part of the film. I wanted to use the idea of a female chorus – much like in a Greek tragedy to illustrate the crisis I saw in women around me. It’s not just Mandy’s experience but a shared depression.

Rare Beasts as a gritty English style of filmmaking would have been unbearable. That of course has its place but I wanted it to feel slightly more balletic with scenes crashing into each other at breakneck speed! That is how I feel we experience life now; lots of things happen to us all day long and we receive an enormous amount of information all day long and lots of it is quite threatening information, further adding to today’s anxiety epidemic.

Everyone in this film is at the end of their rope. Niceties have failed the human race, small talk is done. When you live through nihilism – cynicism – hopelessness, your view of the world is not necessarily as it is but rather your projection. I wanted all the characters to speak frankly. I have known people in my life like this. If you’re from a working class background, there is a brutal shorthand, so this language doesn’t feel unfamiliar to me. In terms of Mandy and Pete – Mandy is a confused feminist, whenever she tries to take control and support the cause it’s always with a very confused approach. For example, in the opening scene Mandy addresses #metoo in a clumsy assertive way. This may shock the audience but further proves my point that we as women can’t say certain things any more that aren’t seen to be ‘cause appropriate’ which to me feels oppressive. More oppression, but this time by the same sex.

The language I used in the film can be interpreted as hard work and it may well not be your thing; that is ok. However, I would encourage you to try and look beyond your initial reaction which may be ‘that’s offensive to women’; you might think differently or you might not. I encourage debate and conversation.

The film is dedicated to ‘all my friends and all their woes’ because this film definitely deals with issues we’ve discussed as friends. I definitely think our generation can relate to the panic attack feeling of life and that many women my age can vouch for being confused by some of modern feminism.
Billie Piper, Production notes

Billie Piper is an award-winning British actress and household name. After a successful career as a chart-topping pop musician, Piper went on to play the Doctor’s assistant Rose Tyler in the BBC’s reinvention of Doctor Who in 2005. She followed up her success by starring as the lead in The Secret Diary of a Call Girl, a hit TV series which she also supported as Executive Producer.

Her other work includes appearances in TV adaptations of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Most recently, Piper won outstanding critical acclaim for her role in Garcia Lorca’s Yerma, winning among others the coveted Olivier Award for Best Actress, and making history as the only actress to have won all six of the available Best Actress awards for a single performance. Rare Beasts is her directorial debut.

Rare Beasts
Directed by: Billie Piper
©: Rare Beasts Ltd
A Western Edge Pictures production
Presented by: Ffilm Cymru Wales, Fields Park Media Partners, Moffen Media, Warrior Film Productions
Presented in association with: 42MP
Executive Producers: Franki Goodwin, Will Kane, Mike Rattenbury, Vaughan Sivell, Eloise Singer, Luke Dundas, Paul Higgins, Ben Pugh, Billie Piper, Josh Varney, Jim Reeve, Robert Halmi, Jeff K. Clarke, Claire Lee, Stephen Wallace, Adam Partridge, Keith Potter
Produced by: Billie Piper, Vaughan Sivell
Co-produced by: Tom Wood
Line Producer: Jenna Mills
Post-production Supervisor: Karen Payne
1st Assistant Director: Simon Rooke
Script Supervisor: Marilyn Kirby
Casting Director: Shaheen Baig
Casting by: Shaheen Baig
Script Adviser: Lucy Prebble
Director of Photography: Patrick Meller
Cam Op/Steadicam: Tom Wilkinson
Cam Op/Steadicam 2: James Burgess
VFX From: Molinare
SFX Supervisor: Bob Thorne
Editor: Hazel Baillie
Production Designer: Sarah Kane
Art Director: Louise Corcoran
Set Decorator: Clementine Miller
Hair and Make-up Artist: Kat Morgan
Title Design: Bruno di Lucca
Music by: Johnny Lloyd, Nathan Coen
Music Supervisor: Jen Moss
Choreographer: Paul Roberts
Sound Recordist: Keith Tunney
Supervising Sound Editor/Re-recording Mixer: Markus Moll
Dialogue Coach: Jane Karen

Billie Piper (Mandy)
Leo Bill (Pete)
Kerry Fox (Marion)
Toby Woolf (Larch)
David Thewlis (Vic)
Hilary Agostini (waitress)
Alice Bailey Johnson (Carly)
Antonia Campbell-Hughes (Cathy)
Rosa Coduri (Meredith)
Jolyon Coy (Woody)
Mario Demetriou (coffee shop guy)
Benjamin Dilloway (Larch’s dad ‘Matthew’)
Michael Elwyn (Bertie)
Leo Flanagan (Robbo)
Mariah Gale (Vanessa)
Meryl Griffiths (Judith)
Van Hu (Tapper)
Lily James (Cressida)
Monserrat Lombard (Val)
Karmen Lovell-Brooks (gregarious 10 year old girl)
Roisin Moore (shouting woman)
Jonjo O’Neill (Dougie)
Kathryn O’Reilly (Chloe)
Charlotte Randall (Bless)
Victoria Rose-Wilson (wedding guest)
Christopher Sciueref (the priest)
Nell Sternberg (barista girl)
Lucie Sword (Evelyn)
Emily Taaffe (Becky)
Trevor White (Leonardo)
Rosalyn Wright (Emily)
street performers:
Bobby Bubbles Number (bubble entertainer)
Samantha Fowler (juggler)
Gala Monti (Mrs Headless)
William B. Tabares (Mr Headless)

UK 2019

Courtesy of Republic Film Distribution

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The Human Voice + pre-recorded intro and Q&A with Pedro Almodóvar and Tilda Swinton
Sat 22 May 15:00; Tue 1 Jun 18:20
Woman with a Movie Camera: Rare Beasts + Q&A with writer-director Billie Piper
Sat 22 May 17:15
Sheffield Doc/Fest
Fri 4 Jun 20:15
Preview: Doctor Who: Dragonfire
Sat 12 Jun 12:00
Relaxed Screenings: The Reason I Jump
Fri 18 Jun 14:30; Tue 22 Jun 18:10
Woman with a Movie Camera: Wildfire
Sun 20 Jun 18:40 (+ Q&A with director Cathy Brady); Mon 21 Jun 18:10; Tue 22 Jun 14:40; Wed 23 Jun 20:50; Thu 24 Jun 14:45

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email.