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Rare Beasts review: A memorably bracing experience

Billie Piper’s directorial debut goes from bleakly funny to just bleak, says Graeme Virtue.

If your first film back in a proper cinema screen is Rare Beasts – an acidic relationship drama written and directed by Billie Piper – then it will be a memorably bracing experience.

Piper plays Mandy, a jittery single mother working at a TV production company who falls in with religious know-it-all Pete (Leo Bill) despite a disastrous first date that sets a lacerating tone. The verbal sparring between the two where no taboo is off-limits can be a little draining but the sense of being emotionally exhausted echoes Mandy’s existence: when she’s not being demeaned at her job she has to play referee between her prickly estranged parents (Kerry Fox and David Thewlis, both excellent).

Piper the director creates a queasy atmosphere where a twee soundtrack clashes with dark antics on-screen, although at times the bleakly funny simply becomes bleak. At a time when even post-modern rom-coms often pivot to a feel-good finale, Rare Beasts sticks to its guns. If you enjoyed Piper in the raunchy Sky Atlantic comedy I Hate Suzie, this will make a fine chaser.

Three stars out of five

Rare Beasts is n cinemas and on VOD from May 17

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