Growing up in a loving home is a necessity and a privilege. Some kids are born into well-adjusted families, where at the end of the day, they can sleep knowing they are loved unconditionally, and above all, safe. Some kids are born without luck.
It is those kids without luck that Berdreymi (Beautiful Beings) decides to portray. Not often do you find a depiction of that type of childhood that manages to feel so complex, extensive, and authentic as the one director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson pulls off. The film stars Addi (Birgir Dagur Bjarkason,) a 14-year-old of divorced parents whose mother thinks she’s a psychic, as he invites Balli (Áskell Einar Pálmason,) a bullied kid, into his group of equally unstable teenagers.
Even for those who did not necessarily grow up around violence, like Addi himself, the distinct lack of affection from those who should give it creates an anger that they are incapable of handling, transforming it, in turn, into brutality. Throughout the runtime, it only gets more dangerous and tragic. It is here that we see the complexity the film deals with; its destructive nature is clearly considered not only by the director himself but even the kids, yet at the same time, it’s to be wondered if this anger towards the world might also be what keeps them alive and able to cope with their situations while they are unable to find a healthier way of existing.
But as violent as Beautiful Beings is, it’s actually rather gentle, too. As boys in a heteronormative society, being affectionate with each other doesn’t come as easily to them. Yet, they still protect one another, they let themselves be held by their friends, and little brawls turn into delicate hugs that act like a refuge from all the horrible things they face. Much of this is thanks to how the little moments of affection are framed; smoking on a roof, climbing a tower to see the city. There’s a quiet intimacy and care to a lot of this film that contrasts its other side and shows what the characters really need.
The realism of the film breaks with the implementation of Addi’s mom and his own visions of the future through surreal dreams that come to them at night. They contribute to the memory-like sensation the movie gives off and serve to touch upon the more abstract feelings we come across, like that sense of discomfort that tells you something will go wrong and to listen to your own intuition, or the expectations for the future that the kids have little of.
It is hard not to feel as though when you’re born into violence, you’ll die to violence as well. You are cursed, and the world has beaten you before you can do anything. Beautiful Beings understands that feeling, and it still tells you, ‘’Despite all that, maybe things will be okay’’.