Writer/director Michael Pearce, in his debut feature, has crafted a bizarre and intense story of a sheltered 27-year-old woman, Moll Huntford (Jessie Buckley), and her new-found obsessive love, Pascal Renouf (Johnny Flynn). Filmed against the rugged, breathtaking background of Jersey, the Channel Islands, "Beast" explores the conundrum of who is the serial killer crippling the community?
There have been four murders of young girls on the island and the prime suspect is Pascal. Tempers are flaring and residents are rushing to judgment regarding the guilty person.
Moll's family, especially her strident mother, Hilary (Geraldine James OBE, Office of the British Empire), wildly disapprove of Pascal. But Moll is determined to stand by him despite some misgivings of her own. And as "Beast" progresses, no one is sure who is responsible for these heinous crimes.
The role of Moll had to be perfectly cast with Pearce wishing for a relative unknown. Buckley delivered an amazing audition and wanted the part desperately --- and it shows. Her performance, along with Flynn's, is so incredibly strong. The two of them are spellbinding, whether you like their characters or not.
"Beast" is definitely performance and dialogue driven, so a mistake in casting would have been disastrous. But these two young actors are mesmerizing --- you literally cannot take your eyes from the screen. And Pearce's script, though it does have a few holes in the narrative, is well-written enough to keep the audience in suspense throughout.
"Beast" is a psychological thriller and it doesn't disappoint. The final scene alone will haunt you for days. Just who in this equation is the "Beast"?
Opinion: Mild See It Now!
True to a well-conceived psychological thriller, "Beast" keeps its audience guessing until, and through, its gritty conclusion. Writer/director Michael Pearce's feature film debut is exceedingly well acted by a cast virtually unknown in the U.S., but not in the U.K.
Jessie Buckley plays Moll Huntford, a pretty 27-year-old redhead living at home with her mother, Hilary (Geraldine James), and her demented father. Her only daily brush with normalcy is her job as a tour bus guide. But when Moll meets Pascal (Johnny Flynn), her world changes dramatically.
The island town of Jersey in the U.K.'s Channel Islands is the setting, and there is a serial killer on the loose. In Pearce's immersive script, clues abound as to who the murderer might be. Does Moll deserve to be vilified by some people for a violent event that occurred in her teens, even by her strict mother? Or is there something darker about Moll waiting to be revealed?
Meanwhile, Pascal exudes a rugged chemistry mixed with a somewhat suspicious, and perhaps dangerous, countenance. He is very good looking, in a gruff sort of way, yet we're never sure about his possible involvement with the murders. He likes to hunt small animals, but that in and of itself doesn't make him a killer of young girls. One scene in particular with Moll, Pascal and an unfortunate rabbit is quite disturbing, but may offer a possible insight into Moll's true character.
"Beast" is very intense --- I found it impossible to look away whenever Buckley and Flynn are together. Their characters' relationship blossoms from a flirtation to a full-blown love affair, but there is always something worrisome about the whole pairing --- will it end under tragic circumstances?
Based loosely on a real-life child molester from the 1960's called Beast of Jersey, "Beast" is a frightening piece of work, despite its lack of violence. Adding to the suspense, Pearce is very clever having his entire cast act a little unhinged, whether it's the scene at one of the girls' funerals, Pascal having dinner with Moll and her family, or Moll being interrogated by a particularly intense female investigator.
The two leads render memorable performances. As for Buckley, she wanted the part of Moll so badly she slept with the script under her pillow for months, hoping to get the call from Pearce. It obviously worked.
Opinion: See It Now!