Director: Michael Pearce
Starring: Johnny Flynn, Jessie Buckley, Geraldine James
Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes
What It Is: A troubled woman living in an isolated community finds herself pulled between the control of her oppressive family and the allure of a secretive outsider suspected of a series of brutal murders.
What We Think: There is nothing more pleasant than a film that shatters your expectations, turning a confident hunch about what’s coming next into smithereens of uncertainty. The British thriller “Beast” does it markedly well. Michael Pearce’s accomplished debut film slowly and remorselessly turns a rural story of young love into an emotionally charged murder mystery from a feminine viewpoint.
The action opens at a large, boring birthday party in Moll’s honour where she walks off to spend the night dancing and drinking. Mother reminds her that “there’s a killer stalking this island.” In the past four years three girls were kidnapped and found in shallow graves, and a fourth remains missing. (The story is inspired by a real series of attacks in the 1960s.)
The case becomes Moll’s central concern when she is rescued from the crude advances of a pushy bloke. Her knight in armour, Pascal (Johnny Flynn), is a person of interest in the ongoing police investigation.
Moll finds the handsome brute’s take-control attitude beguiling. They seem like a match made in — well, purgatory at least. He is rough and crude and smelly as the outdoors but has fragments of compassion that the well-scrubbed lumps in the island’s small dating pool severely lack. After her first romp with Pascal in the outdoors, Moll brings the dirt home on her clothes, drops onto her mother’s immaculate white couch, and spreads her legs apart like a man filthy after a day of horseback riding. It’s a pose of psychosexual victory.
This is not an inspirational drama about finding yourself. It’s a gothic thriller with steadily increasing tension and hostility, whose heroine grows darker as she goes deeper into moonlight and surreal dream sequences. “Beast” announces an original creative sensibility and reminds us how much cinema is improved when that attitude is allowed to follow its own path.
Our Grade: B+, Overall, it’s a completely riveting film. The movie slowly builds through love, pain, betrayal, and loss, and eventually ends on a white-knuckle tension that is as enthralling as it is shocking. The direction and cinematography are stylish, and Jessie Buckley is an astounding actress, you just can’t take your eyes off of her and she is really able to take the corruption of innocence in the movie to a whole other level.