Written and directed by Michael Pearce, Beast is an eerie and captivating debut feature film about isolation and secrets. Moll (Jessie Buckley) is a troubled young woman, stifled by her controlling mother (Geraldine James), the unwanted affections of nice but dull cop Clifford (Trystan Gravelle) and the isolated island community she’s a part of. When she meets loner Pascal (Johnny Flynn) she’s drawn to him even though people on the island suspect him to be behind a series of brutal murders.
Thanks to the music, performances and lingering shots on characters faces, you have a sense of unease throughout ‘Beast’. From the beginning you get a sense of something is not quite right with Moll’s family and the picture-perfect town she lives in. It’s the small-town mentality and the desperate need to keep up appearances for the sake of the neighbours, even if that could damage a loved one. When Moll meets Pascal she’s not sure she likes her family, or even likes herself, but with him it’s like she comes alive.
The chemistry between Moll and Pascal is electric, both know very little about each other, but they appear to bring each other out of their shells. They are in love and very little can stand in their way, but the suspicion of a community and doubts in each other’s minds might just do it. Jessie Buckley gives a powerful performance. She’s captivating whenever she’s on screen, portraying Moll as naïve but with a hidden steely core. Johnny Flynn is equal parts charming and menacing as Pascal, but he never manages to be unlikable. Both characters have dark pasts and secrets and you’re left to the very end wondering if either of them can be trusted.
The island is as much of a character as anyone else is in ‘Beast’. The woods, the beach and the rocky hills are a mixture of harsh reality and fragile beauty. It’s an almost dreamlike setting for Moll and Pascal’s relationship, giving them a weird and wonderful landscape for their twisty and passionate romance.
Towards the end of ‘Beast’, it did feel like the story was meandering along and there were multiple points where the story could’ve stopped and had a satisfying ending. But instead, it carried on, attempting to tie up all loose threads while still leaving some questions unanswered and making the story feel longer and more complicated than necessary.
‘Beast’ is a tale of two halves, the first is a dark, brooding mystery, the second is a strange and unsettling drama. It’s an uneven film, but that does add to the sense of unease that’s present throughout this atmospheric film.
Director: Michael Pearce
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James, Trystan Gravelle