‘Pearl’ Movie Review: A Farmer’s Daughter Moves Up the Food Chain

A horror-movie killer gets a surprising origin story in Ti West’s prequel to “X.”


Trapped on her family’s isolated farm, Pearl must tend to her ailing father under the bitter and overbearing watch of her devout mother. Lusting for a glamorous life like she’s seen in the movies, Pearl finds her ambitions, temptations, and repressions all colliding in this origin story of X’s iconic villain.

CREDIT: Chrishtopher Moss

Pearl, as portrayed by a young, quietly deranged Mia Goth, carries out the duties that may be expected of any farm girl in 1918 with a husband serving in the Great War. While tending to her elderly parents, she occasionally sneaks out to see a silent film. She converses with the duck Mr. Deuce while feeding the animals. She gives a scarecrow a tongue kiss. In the neighbourhood pond, she casually impales the duck with a pitchfork (sorry, Mr. Deuce). She imagines her husband’s corpse detonating on a mine.

If you haven’t already guessed, Pearl is special (“I’m special,” she says to no one in particular). If you want to avoid spoilers for this film or Ti West’s retro slasher X, a film set in the 1970s, to which Pearl is a prequel, keep reading after this point. Goth accomplished a wonderful, unacknowledged double act in X by playing Maxine, a lanky want tobe porn star, as well as Pearl, the ailing, deadly owner of the location where the cast and crew were filming Maxine’s debut movie, The Farmer’s Daughters.

CREDIT: Chrishtopher Moss

Pearl, though, is a better movie, less reliant on West’s occasionally hermetic sense of horror movie pastiche, and vibrating with the gushy gestures of Sirk-by-way-of-John-Waters melodrama, even though it shares a shared cinematic universe with X (and a similar opening shot to Searchers). The new movie has scripted title cards with the word “movie” in quotation marks, and it bursts with primary colours. It also has an orchestral score that fills the entire movie, which is extremely uncommon (the intentionally emotive work is by Tyler Bates and Tim Williams).

It’s a register that works well for capturing the rage of a mind. The language is burned rather than heated: Pearl’s strict German mother (Tandi Wright) says, “Malevolence is festering within you,” and their Carrie-like chemistry is promising for aficionados of bloody parent-daughter confrontations. The best way to understand Pearl is as its movie-obsessed main character’s vision, with everyone else in it only supporting the whirlwind in her head. Few people seem to recognise the pig carcass on the front porch, which is gathering maggots, as the warning it is.

CREDIT: Chrishtopher Moss

Goth, who co-wrote the script with her director, stands out because she uses language with vitality and an earthiness that she hasn’t yet been able to use (not even in movies like Nymphomaniac and A Cure for Wellness). She has never been used to better effect, and Goth makes the most of a croaking, protracted one-take monologue in which a new horror monster is born. Her babyish cheeks and slightly spaced delivery are also used to great effect. The collapse in Pearl’s uncommon genesis story can be observed in real time.


  • Realese date: september 16, 2022 (United States)
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Official site: Official A24
  • Languages: English. German
  • Filming locations: New Zealand
  • Production comapanies: A24. Born creative. Little Lamb

Technical Specs

  • Runtime: 1 hour 42 mintue
  • Aspect Ratio 2.39 : 1


  • What is the plot of the movie Pearl?

Pearl is confined to her family’s remote farm where she must take care of her dying father while her devoted mother keeps a stern and domineering eye on her. Pearl’s ambitions, temptations, and repressions all clash horrifyingly as she strives for a more glamorous existence.
Synopsis of the movie Pearl

  • Why is Pearl rated R?

Rating R (for some strong violence, gore, strong sexual content and graphic nudity). 102 minutes total running time.

  • What year does Pearl take place?

Setting: The Pearl is set in the year 1900 at an estuary (the river’s mouth) along Mexico’s Pacific coast in the town of La Paz. The lengthy peninsula that extends from California is known as BAJA CALIFORNIA on a map.

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