ebuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, Beast is a feature first for writer/director Michael Pearce. Set on the island of Jersey (where Pearce also grew up) is an intense, romantic and dark drama surrounding if you really would do anything for love.
Jessie Buckley plays Moll, a complicated and intriguing young woman who is living at home with her mother and her father who has Alzheimer’s. Moll has a forced sense of obedience and guilt orchestrated by her controlling mother who seems to hold the strings like Geppetto. There is a stifling dynamic that captures a tension under the surface, happily glossed over with a middle-class façade that as a viewer immediately guides us to tune in. After being upstaged by her sister on her birthday who announces she is pregnant with twins, Moll exists stage left and begins her own adventure.
After partying all night, the party continues into the morning as she walks along the beach with a guy she met the night before. What starts as innocent fun turns into the beginning of a nightmare as despite saying no his aggression continues. When a gunshot is fired, the beat changes and standing before her is Pascal, an equally introverted and mysterious character who offers her a lift back home.
Her mother demonstrates some top notch super nanny style parenting and addresses 27 year old Moll as if she’s just drawn all over the walls with crayon. But in all fairness, her state of panic is not misguided. With a string of violent murders of young women and no suspect, it’s astounding how no-one really bats an eyelid and alters their behaviour.
After a string of encounters Moll and Pascal begin a relationship that is disapproved of by the rest of the family. As they learn more about each other they realise what attracts and bonds them is their dark secret past that explains their peculiar behaviour. This deepened sense of understanding and feeling only intensifies their love as when she learns about his criminal record from family friend police officer / want to be lover, she is so blinded by love that she decides to defend him at all costs. With his past exploited and Pascal now looking like the key suspect, the couple live out in the sticks and try to ignore the island scrutiny, but even Moll has doubts.
Right now, we are spoiled by crime and police dramas that give us multiple suspects and weeks of speculation to only find out in the last episode it was the milkman who appeared in one scene in the first episode. What Beast does effortlessly is keep us in what feels like a whirlpool and focused purely on this one relationship. It’s a real character study of Moll in which Jessie Buckley delivers a knock out performance. An emotive and full-bodied experience that has us entangled in her mental state and has us guessing until the end. The film is a lot longer than necessary so bring lots of snacks but the intelligent cinematography perfectly enraptures the tone of the film.