Tom Jolliffe looks at Mia Goth’s compelling career so far and the promise of what lies ahead…
From the outset, Mia Goth was born into an interesting fusion. Canadian and Brazilian parents, she was raised in the UK, occasionally diverting back to her parents’ native homelands during her upbringing. A full name like Mia Gypsy Mello da Silva Goth certainly suggests someone destined for individuality. From the moment Goth appeared on screen, audiences have been somewhat struck by a performer of rare magnetism, with her big screen break coming in Lars Von Trier’s controversial Nymphomaniac II (as a character known as ‘P.’).
There’s a fairly consistent type of character Goth plays very well. Enigmatic, thoughtful, quirky, quiet and on the outside of normality. With intense eyes that tell far more than the occasionally limited dialogue she has, she has the presence of great stars of thoughtful European cinema of a bygone era (she’d have been a Bergman muse perhaps). She could stand and stare out of windows and be impossible to take your eyes from.
What’s more, Goth seems to have carefully curated a burgeoning career littered with character parts in films closer to (sometimes in) the Arthouse spectrum than to mainstream Hollywood. Her first really prominent role came in the criminally overlooked dystopian film The Survivalist, as the daughter of a mother looking for refuge at the remote dwelling of a paranoid survivalist. So much of Stephen Fingleton’s film relies on visual storytelling over dialogue. She barely speaks in the film, but with three excellent central performers, she ranks as the most compelling.
Goth’s fascinating CV never really succumbs to cash grab jobs or uninteresting cinema. She also seems to attract, and be attracted to, auteurs. It says a lot that she catches not just the eye of aspiring visionaries like Fingleton or Ti West, but also long-established voices of cinema like Claire Denis (High Life), Von Trier and Luca Guadagnino (Suspiria 2018).
Storytellers with a penchant for visual language and show don’t tell are invariably drawn to those elusively enigmatic eyes and intense stare. They’ve often tapped into to an interesting ability Goth has to dance a line between waif-like innocence and a darker psychological complexity. Even in playing more of a conventional hip girl with aspirations of stardom in X, she is still able to portray something deeper.
Above all else, Goth also has that very special, indefinable x factor. She’s not the conventional lead. She doesn’t have the same girl-next-door charisma as other rising talents currently hoovering up the major roles. She probably wouldn’t pop up as the headliner of a Marvel or DC project like Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh or Brie Larson for example. They all have their own unique abilities and something a bit different, but maybe not an alluringly dazzling odd side as performers. Goth’s charisma is different. It’s the sort usually attributed to character actors, and yet with X she showed she could bring those qualities to a leading role.
West’s X took some familiar horror formulas and placed Goth into the role of the final girl. The film did in fact have a more conventional final girl candidate in Jenna Ortega, but flipped convention. Goth played fascinating dual roles in the film. As a starry-eyed adult film actress who wants to be the best in the business, she’s cool, free-spirited with just the right amount of simmering reality beneath the delusions.
Once again, among a fine cast, it’s Goth who stands out. Mesmeric and compelling, she holds your attention whilst never feeling like an on-the-nose character. Ortega is playing a clear archetype as required, just like Brittany Snow. Goth however has a character with deeper layers, peeling back like an onion to display these interesting and sometimes conflicting facets. Indeed that second performance as the film’s horrifying antagonist also opened up plenty of intrigue.
Oddly the film to me on first viewing felt almost disappointingly simple. I wondered whether the dual performances would have some kind of twist within the film, but it didn’t prominently arise. Though there are genre subversions, X did adhere to particular conventions fans would expect, but with A24 backing and great reviews, I probably had higher expectations. However, this was before I was aware of the two-part nature of West’s opus, leading to the release of Pearl, a prequel to X, featuring Goth once again, this time showing us Pearl’s (the quintessential ‘creepy old lady’ of X) past.
This effectively opens a very direct duality between Maxine (Goth’s X character) and Pearl. It makes the first film inherently more interesting, while the promise of a tonal change into quirkier avenues also means Pearl will have its own distinct flavour. Likewise, Goth’s approach to the role is likely to accentuate those star chasing similarities whilst distinguishing their very unique personalities. After all, Pearl, as the trailer promises, and X shows, is an unhinged and homicidal maniac.
Among other things, Goth has been called the “Judy Garland of horror” (by Peter Bradshaw in his Pearl review for The Guardian). It’s this fusion of qualities which she brings to the screen which make her performances so enthralling and really helps to elevate some of the cinema she’s in, to loftier heights and cult fandom fervour. What comes next is the interesting thing. Whilst Goth shuns mainstream cinema for the most part, with rare exceptions like Emma., it probably means she will always stay just under the Oscar radar.
Goth’s innate talents and unique on-screen presence hold the potential to win the big prizes (not that they are the be-all and end-all). She has just been announced to reunite with Ti West on the X trilogy finale MaXXXine, while her next film, Infinity Pool certainly promises to continue the run of intriguing choices and an affinity for working with visionaries in director Brandon (son of David) Cronenberg. The prospect of Brandon’s surreally gruesome horror visions combined with Goth’s dazzling magnetism potentially spells genre greatness and beyond that, the possibilities of where her career goes next, are endless.
What are your thoughts on Mia Goth? What is her best performance? Let us know on our social channels @flickeringmyth…
SEE ALSO: Read our ★★★★★ review of Pearl here
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due out in 2022, including, Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls and War of The Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/