This is a strange and ethereal movie. With an impressive cast: heavy hitters include Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis. The younger actors in the movie, Emma Rossum, Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich, give persuasive performances of young love and tormented souls living a dreary, day to day existence in sleepy South Carolina. Ah, South Carolina: it has an old world charm to it. I think of southern plantations, sweeping long driveways and beautiful antebellum mansions that beckon a different time, a different life. In Beautiful Creatures, the present is linked with the past and mystical elements of foreshadowing; dreams and destiny are linked throughout the movie.
We have our young hero, Ethan, who years for something more in his life. I guess growing up in a small town where everyone knows everything quickly loses its charm. He wants more from life and his desire to leave town is heightened by the fact that he loves to read, especially books that are controversial or banned and that he has strange dreams of a girl he has yet to encounter. What does this all mean? Who is she and when will he meet her? Our young heroine, Lena, is tortured in the sense where people don’t really accept her and that she is truly different. Her family has long been established in the area and the fact that she has been starting to feel different, as of late, is disturbing. She has thoughts and feelings that actually morph into powers that she doesn’t quite understand and to some extent, this frightens her. Why is she different and what secret lies within her family’s dark past that may pose some kind of threat?
Jeremy Irons plays Lena’s eclectic and suave uncle, Macon. He is a dapper gentleman, dresses in formal attire and speaks with a distinguished pedigree. He is very protective of his niece and with very good reason: the family has a history of magic and being “casters” – they are able to perform magical spells, some for good, and others for evil. Their family is looked upon as freakish and eccentric; better to stay away from those kinds of folks.
Lena and Ethan meet one day when he encounters her on the road – and literally almost runs into her. Seeing as how she has car troubles, he gives her a lift home, only to discover that the two of them have more in common than meets the eye (especially their shared interest in controversial literature). However, the fact that Ethan found a strange locket that belonged to Lena and decided to return it presented a bit of a dilemma. Upon touching the locket, Ethan was privy to some strange visions and flashbacks of the American Civil War. This distresses Macon and long time family friend Amma, who decide that it would be better to cool down the burgeoning romance and do whatever they can to keep the young adults apart. However, at one time or another, we have all experienced the first pangs of physical attraction and young love or lust and it is a very powerful force to be reckoned with and Lena and Ethan find ways of spending time with each other. So much so, that Lena eventually lets Ethan in on her family secret and what potential outcomes it will have for her and her family in that small town.
Lena and Ethan use the locket to transport themselves back in time and see what took place during the American Civil War and why both of them are so strongly drawn to it. It turns out that their ancestors, Genevieve Duchannes and Ethan Carter Wate, were young and very much in love at that time. Ethan was grievously wounded and Genevieve revived him with a forbidden spell but it was not without consequences; all the women in the Duchannes family line to become evil and be cursed for the rest of their lives. There seems to be one person the two of them can trust: Amma, who has her own secret powers and is able to ‘see’ and research all about the casters and the magical things they can/perform, due to the secret library that is actually underneath the town library. The root of the curse is found: unfortunately for Lena, they find an ancient book called “The Book of the Moons” which contains crucial information about this impending curse and the change that Lena may undergo soon: in order for this curse to be broken, someone that Lena loves and cares for deeply will have to die. Not exactly the stuff of fairy tales, secret romances and ‘happy ever afters.’ Lena, distressed about what this means, is unwilling to kill Ethan, and makes the decision to push Ethan away by making the weather change and completely erases his memory of her.
Of course, what budding romance wouldn’t be complete without a few obstacles and bizarre family members to deal with? It turns out that Lena has a very attractive – and reckless – cousin named Ridley, who is a caster and is determined to turn Lena to the evil side of being a caster. She’s just the icing on the cake because then there’s the matter of Lena’s mother, Sarafine, and she is a cold, calculating woman who will stop at nothing to turn her daughter to the darker side of the family and use those powers for her own selfish purposes. Sarafine wants to eliminate all the humans and essentially take over the world, because hey, that is what evil women/witches/casters do, right?! Humans just get in the way, so better to get rid of them all, kit and caboodle!
On Lena’s 16th birthday, an important event will take place: a re-enactment of the Battle of Honey Hill, from the American Civil War. Enter cousin Ridley, making eyes and pressing other body parts onto helpless Link, persuading him to use an actual bullet for the re-enactment. The ‘agreement’ is that Ethan and Link will supposedly kill each other, in order to take off from the re-enactment. As Lena turns 16, this is a very important age – as this is the age that will determine whether or not she stays true and good or goes off the precipice and ends up turning to her darker side. Lena begins to feel strange and has an impending sense of gloom, only to run off and see Ethan and run to his side, fearing the worst. She thinks he’s dying and starts to become hysterical, all the while her cousin and mother goad her on, enticing her to join the dark side. Lena lets her anger shine through and unleashes a series of lightning strikes throughout the place – to her shock – and sees her uncle Macon lying there. He had disguised himself as Ethan, in order to become the necessary sacrifice to break the curse, once and for all. Lena, in her grief, listens to Macon’s final words of advice, “claim yourself.” She makes the moon disappear in order to banish the darkness from claiming her. Ridley begins to put two and two together and begs to be left out and flees the scene. Lena squares off with her mother after some very terse words and puts Sarafine away for good.
About six months later, Ethan, who has no recollection of the events that took place, stops by the town library, as he is leaving to go out of state to attend college with his buddy Link. As he is about to depart, he strikes up a conversation with Lena and apologizes that he never got to know her during their time in Gaitlin. He asks a pivotal question – “Is this book by Charles Bukowski any good?” (During their first encounter, this was a book that was shared between them) Her reply is short and to the point, “Define good.” She gives him the book, as a parting gift. He takes the book and leaves. As he is driving off with Link, Ethan reads a passage in the book that had been connected with Lena. It is then revealed in the caster library that she is a half-light/half-dark caster. Something about the passage and seeing the burnt town sign triggers a sense of urgency in Ethan. As they drive past, he gets out of the car and yells Lena’s name at the top of his lungs. Lena hears his call and is finally free…of the dark side of her family’s curse.
This is a mystical tale of young love, family tradition and secrets that can threaten or liberate a person. As an adult, I thought it was cute but I’m willing to bet that if I was 15 years younger, I would be able to identify with the prevalent themes of love, isolation and the desire to leave and strike out on your own on a more intense level. If that is something that interests you, then by all means, watch this movie. If not, wait until the next movie that comes on HBO.