Movie Review: Beast
The darkest parts of Michael Pearce’s murder mystery were inspired by truth, but Beast has a fairy tale feel that lets the bleak and the blissful bleed together.
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Geraldine James, Johnny Flynn, Charley Palmer Rothwell
Directed by: Michael Pearce
Running time: 1 hr 47 mins
By Katherine Monk
A handsome rogue. A red-haired siren. The rocky soil of the Channel Islands. Writer-director Michael Pearce certainly knew a good place to plant seeds of hostility, and he reaps some ugly fruit in Beast.
A thriller with that unfolds under a drab sky, and inspired by brutal truth, Beast swirls around the character of Moll (Jessie Buckley), a woman still living at home with her mother, doing her best to live up to expectation.
She’s never been all that good at “being good.” Possessed by a wild side that halos her personality with the same unpredictable curls as her red locks, Moll bolts on her own 27th birthday party. Shortly after, she gets a jolt of romance from Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a flaxen-haired, blue-eyed labourer with an old truck and an earthy smell.
The two have a natural chemistry, and it’s not long before they consummate their attraction in the grassy fields, writhing on the dewy ground. Moll seems gleefully oblivious to the potential stain. Perhaps, she even takes passive aggressive pleasure in it — especially given how hard her mother has tried to clean her up and launder her reputation.
The two have a natural chemistry, and it’s not long before they consummate their attraction in the grassy fields, writhing on the dewy ground.
Moll did something to someone back in her school days. We’re not sure what it was until we’re knee deep in a murder mystery. A serial killer is loose on Jersey, and his fourth victim has just been discovered in a shallow grave, her mouth filled with dirt.
Pearce apparently grew up on Jersey shortly after the real-life, so-called “Beast of Jersey” ran amok, randomly beating and raping people in their own homes between 1960 and 1971. The contrast between the ivy-coated cottages and deeply rooted human evils is what gave the story such lurid allure, and what makes Beast feel uncomfortably intimate. It vines around your ankles and creeps up slowly, gradually exposing itself and raising the emotional ante.
The contrast between the ivy-coated cottages and deeply rooted human evils is what gave the story such lurid allure, and what makes Beast feel uncomfortably intimate. It vines around your ankles and creeps up slowly, gradually exposing itself and raising the emotional ante.
Because Moll is hiding something and because Pascal is the outsider, it’s hard to trust either one of them. Pearce plays with the doubt, spooling it out, and tugging at the appropriate moments to ensure we follow — but hang back at a safe distance.
We’re engaged, but observing, and Pearce gives us lots to see. There’s Moll and her discomfort in her own skin — a point of character that gives Buckley the chance to show off some strange pirouettes of personality. Twirling from awkward, aging schoolgirl to empowered tigress in a few tripping strides, Buckley gives Moll a sense of innate spontaneity. We come to believe she’s capable of anything.
Pascal is a little more predictable, and the more we know him, the more approachable he becomes. Even though the police have fingered him as a prime suspect in the murders, we feel he’s just the easy scapegoat because he’s stand-offish. We also see how important he is to Moll, and how his presence makes her feel more like herself.
They are the same. Yet, they are not each other. This is the core of the romantic premise, and it can either make both people better — or pull their aortic sacs through the paper shredder. Beast feeds on both, making it a grisly little fairy tale with some meet-cute gristle. Definitely a dangerous bone for a date movie, but a good gnaw for those who seek a dark theatre and a cloudy sky in summer.
THE EX-PRESS, June 15, 2018