A frail young woman with a domineering mother meets and falls for a gruff young outsider in her small community in Jersey. However as she becomes closer with the man, she begins to suspect he may be responsible for a spate of murders that have occurred on the small isle. Is she in love with a monster, and does she actually care?
Michael Pierce writes and directs a story of a woman on edge. His lens stalks and traps Jessie Buckley’s Moll as she desperately tries to fulfill the stifling expectations placed on her by her oppressive family. Buckley is superb as her veneer of composure gradually cracks to reveal the confused and wounded beast beneath. Johnny Flynn as the mysterious love interest Pascal is melancholy but charismatic. The chemistry between them is subtle but palpable.
The film refuses to come to traditional cinematic conclusions. The misunderstood outsider, the heroine who yearns for more, Disney clichés who are not at all what they seem. The film is gripping throughout. The film makes villains of the privileged snobs who occupy most of the land of the film and of the racist working classes who oppress the local minorities. The brave outsiders might have the moral integrity to question these people’s values but that ferocity may also be monstrous.
Dirt gains an interesting significance in the narrative. Initially a symbol of Moll’s liberation from the nightmarish sterility of her family home, as she draws closers and closer to her wild counterpart, the filth increasingly gains connotations of death and comes to literally smother her. The film’s dream sequences are surreal and haunting. Pierce utilises provocative cinematography and editing to make his film violent and provocative without being graphic.
Beast is a riveting thriller and a haunting study of the way in which small communities treat outsiders. It’s surreal, tense and thoroughly engaging.
4.5 / 5