Show times: 6:30 & 8:30 pm
Director: Michael Pearce
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James
Runtime: 107 minutes
Toronto Film Festival Nomination: Platform Award; Miami Film Festival Nomination: Best Screenplay; London Film Festival Nomination: First Feature
“There is nothing more enjoyable than a film that shatters your expectations, turning a confident hunch about what’s coming next into smithereens of doubt. The British thriller “Beast” does it strikingly well.”—Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
In Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the identity of the Beast is never in any doubt. But in Beast, writer/director Michael Pearce’s powerful debut feature, that one-word title leaves room for debate. Just who is this Beast?
The story is set on Jersey, a channel island with a population of about 100,000. The chief suspect is Pascal Renouf (Johnny Flynn), a dark anti-hero of the Wuthering Heights variety. The police think he might be behind a recent spate of murders, but the first time we meet him, he’s rescuing a young woman named Moll (Jessie Buckley) from an impulsive first date that’s about to become an assault.
Moll’s attraction to Pascal is problematical. She may have started from a sense of obligation. She may be keeping it up just to annoy her family, especially her icy, imperious mother (Geraldine James), or because no one else is willing to give this rough guy a break. Whatever her reasons, she definitely exists inside her own troubled bubble. She drinks, sometimes wanders, suffers nightmares – and there’s nothing normal about the way she eats cake.
But Pearce cleverly steers us into this dark drama Moll-first. She may be just as bleak and tormented as her beau, but because she talks more and is surrounded by family, we feel we know her better. Pascal is a poacher with a police record, which is difficult to spin as anything other than a negative.
Ireland’s Buckley delivers a disturbing yet measured performance, with Flynn providing the perfect counterpoint. Who is the Beast? Perhaps it’s the prurient viewer who decides to brave this twisted tale. Beast is a thrill ride, a plunge into darkness that feels like it may never pull up.