Film Review: Beast (2017)

I finally catch Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn being creepy af on the Channel Islands in Beast

“You can’t just change the rules because someone’s shown an interest”

Written and directed by Michael Pearce, Beast is a darkly compelling film set on the island of Jersey. Jessie Buckley plays Moll, a young woman unfulfilled by life – she’s still living at home at 27, her job as a tour guide is uninspiring and the many demands of her family drive her up the wall. So the arrival of Johnny Flynn’s rascally Pascal as a knave in shining armour perks her up no end and they tumble into an intense relationship.

Only trouble is, a serial killer of young women has also just arrived. Plus Pascal has a past as a wrong’un, though Moll won’t hear anything of it, enjoying rebelling against her family as much as Pascal himself. As it turns out, she also has a past and this is where Pearce’s film really intrigues as he packs his two leads with unpredictability and inscrutability – a whole load of grey area meaning it is really quite unsettling.

As romance turns to murder mystery to pyschological thriller, hints of grim fairytale also creep in to heighten the atmosphere. And as we slowly become privy to details from the past, both Buckley and Flynn keep us still guessing as to how things are going to unfold, the damage life has done to them unfurling into the present and manifesting now too. Their connection is compelling too, both sexual and spiritual in nature.

Geraldine James is superb as Moll’s stern mother Hilary, particularly vituperative towards Moll and guilty of worse as she openly prefers her other, more conventional, daughter (Shannon Tarbet) and there’s also good work from Trystan Gravelle as a local, would-be friendly cop. Altogether it is a highly accomplished debut from Pearce and a most effective film, if not quite the tourist advert for Jersey you might have expected.

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