20th August (UK Blu-Ray release)
A troubled woman living in an isolated community finds herself pulled between the control of her oppressive family and the allure of a secretive outsider suspected of a series of brutal murders.
Geraldine James, Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn
In Michael Pierce’s uneven but solid debut feature Beast, Moll (Jessie Buckley; Taboo, War and Peace) is 27 and still living at home, stifled by the small island community around her and too beholden to her family to break away. When she meets Pascal, a free-spirited stranger, a whole new world opens up to her and she begins to feel alive for the first time, falling madly in love. Finally breaking free from her family, Moll moves in with Pascal (Johnny Flynn; Clouds of Sils Maria) to start a new life. But when he is arrested as the key suspect in a series of brutal murders, she is left isolated and afraid.
Choosing to stand with him against the suspicions of the community, Moll finds herself forced to make choices that will impact her life forever.
Far from being your typical serial killer fare, Beast toes many narrative lines to different degrees of success. There’s the oppressive household of Moll’s, in which everything is a little too perfect, as well as the romance angle between her and Pascal. Not only that, Beast mixes in some grisly murders for good measure. It’s certainly an intriguing cauldron of potential plot paths, but by not keeping a focus on any of them for long enough, they never become as effective as they should be.
I’d have loved to have seen and uncovered more about Moll’s upbringing and surroundings, as her home life gives off an eerie Stepford Wives vibe or Hot Fuzz‘s criminal-free Sandyford setting without the laughs. Nevertheless, when Moll breaks free from her oppressive parents it’s a believable transition thanks to lead Jessie Buckley, whose portrayal of a shackled rebel is outstanding. Johnny Flynn as the mysterious Pascal doesn’t quite match up to Buckley but keeps enough cards to his chest to not give the game away too early. Their chemistry as a couple isn’t anything spectacular, but due to solid performances, they’re always enjoyable to watch when sharing scenes.
It’s important to know this Beast prowls more than it pounces too; don’t expect the pace to be anything other than leisurely. There’s a couple of moments in which it threatens to show its fangs but unfortunately, it never quite digs its claws in far enough to get under your skin.
Regardless, there are countless shots of gorgeous sunsets on the British Isles and the framing of shots is consistently impressive throughout. While there’s a bit of work to do on narrative flow, Pierce undoubtedly has an eye for beauty in Beast.
With killer performances and an alluring story, Beast is a meticulously crafted drama which requires patience as it warns of the dangers of judging books by their covers – as well as the perils of whirlwind romances with handsome strangers who may or may not be exactly what they seem.
Beast is out now on Blu-Ray, DVD Digital HD in the UK through Altitude Releasing.
Outstanding performance by Jessie Buckley
Beautiful shots of the British Isles and excellent framing
Drags its feet in the middle section
Sometimes feels weighed down by the multiple narratives