Holy Beasts (2019) 

After the passing of her close friend who was a film director, actress Vera decides to finish his final film for him by stepping in front and behind the camera. The process of doing this is an emotional one that leads her to question many things in her life and within herself. 

Written and directed by Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, Holy Beasts is a slow-going story that gives a view within the life of an actress and a friend dealing with grief, aging, and what that means for her career and life. The film is very much a character study more than anything else and a slow paced one at that. However, it’s an interesting character study that is all about aging in a world that does not welcome it. The film takes its time with the characters, with their past, and with their emotions. Not everything is spelled out and a lot is left to interpretation which gives the film a depth that is interesting to dig into.  

The lead performance by Geraldine Chaplin as the aging actress faced with death and grief while trying to get something finished is downright amazing. This film shows her range and how aging actresses should not be overlooked as they can offer depth of performance, charm, and so much more. Her work is the anchor of the film and it’s exactly what the story needs. Around her, the cast of supporting actors is also really good. One that catches the attention is Udo Kier of course who has been having a really good year for releases of great performances. This may not be as good as Swan Song in terms of performance for him, but it’s up there. 

The cinematography by writer/director Israel Cárdenas is great here. It never shies away from the characters or their emotions. It’s on them, it showcases them, and it lets the cast show these emotions in a natural, nuanced way by not forcing the camera away or on them. The images feel like the viewer is just there, along for the ride, invited in, but not forced to participate if they don’t want to. There is something about how this film is shot, how it allows everyone to just be that comes off as fresh in a way. It shows things as they are, it shows aging and grieving. It shows the good and the bad. It’s like a witness to the story and not another character in a crowded place.  

Holy Beasts is one of those rare films about aging actors. It has a film within a film, but this does not take the attention away from lead character Vera and how Geraldine Chaplin brings her to life, full of life, emotions, thoughts, and so much more. There is a lot of emotions here, from grief to love with everything in-between. It’s a film about humanity and what it is that drives people beyond just the basics of survival.