A Thriller With Teeth
Starring Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, and Geraldine James
Beast is a taut psychological thriller, with a lot going on below the surface of what looks at first like a standard murder mystery.
The film centres on Moll, who lives on the small British island of Jersey. Bored at her birthday party, she takes off and spends the night dancing at a local club. When a reveler tries to rape her, she’s saved by Pascal, a mysterious loner with whom she quickly forms a relationship. Their quick affair is interrupted, however, when Pascal becomes a suspect in a murder case involving the disappearance of three girls.
Moll, is something of an outsider in her small island community, with whispered innuendo over an attack she committed on her high school bully many years earlier. It is implied on more than one occasion that she might be the one responsible for the murders.
The themes of distrust and scapegoats run through Beast’s story. Both Moll and Pascal are distrusted by the island’s townspeople, which exacerbates their situation and draws them closer together. Moll’s overbearing mother lingers over everything, blaming her for all of their family’s problems. Racism runs throughout as another thread, with people blaming the attacks on migrant workers (based on no evidence whatsoever).
Beast is memorable for its exploration of toxic relationships, and its constant suspense and general sense of foreboding. The film manages to remain visually appealing throughout. On the surface of it, the island is an idyllic place to live, full of high-end country clubs and sandy beaches. All of the central cast members inhabiting this space deliver memorable performances, with Jessie Buckley particularly demonstrating that she should be tagged for more roles with this kind of challenging scope.
Flaws are few, but it should be noted that Beast suffers from a rushed ending, with a truncated denouement. The lead up to this point manages to keep the viewer guessing, however, and the direction manages to avoid the usual clichés that often befall thriller films.
As should be clear by now, Beast is a violent film, with dark themes and more than a hint of Walter Wink’s concept of the myth of redemptive violence. These are elements of the film that will prove worth wrestling with for those who enjoy psychological thrillers.
Beast is now showing in cinemas
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor