THE STORY – In a small island community, a troubled young woman falls for a mysterious outsider who empowers her to escape her oppressive family. When he comes under suspicion for a series of murders, she defends him at all costs.
THE CAST – Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn & Geraldine James
THE TEAM – Michael Pearce (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 106 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone you barely knew? Were you caught up in the blissful, surprising and exciting journey of it all? Did it once cross your mind that this person was potentially not who they say they were? This frightening thought of giving yourself over so openly to another human being you hardly know is at the forefront of Michael Pearce’s astonishing debut film “Beast.” Part psychological thriller and part seductive romance, this film exudes style, confidence and is led by a breakthrough performance from Jessie Buckley.
Moll (Jessie Buckley) is a 27-year-old tour guide hostess, still living with her overbearing mother (Geraldine James) on the small island community of Jersey located between Europe and France. She is living in the shadow of her sister who is married with two twin babies on the way and is living a sheltered life. On the day after her birthday, she meets Pascal Renouf (Johnny Flynn), a mysterious young man who scares off another man making unwanted advancements on Moll with his rifle. Brooding and with a mysterious edge to him, Moll is attracted to Pascal despite her family’s reservations due to his past. However, Moll has secrets of her own which she must decide whether or not to share with Pascal when the two of them get wrapped up in a police investigation concerning multiple missing young girls on the island.
Every once in awhile a new talent announces themselves to the world as a force to be reckoned with in the film industry, whether it’s in the category of directing, writing or acting. A few years ago, we saw Trey Edward Shults make this leap with “Krisha.” Robert Eggars with “The Witch.” And last year’s french film “Raw” written and directed by Julia Ducournau. And now we are seeing it with Michael Pearce as the writer/director of “Beast.” And we cannot discount the sizzling talent of the film’s leading star, Jessie Buckley. Johnny Flynn certainly has a mystique about him that makes him an impenetrable character however, he is overshadowed in almost every way by his female co-star. Not only does she make a strong initial impression but she intrigues us with a tormented, dangerous and humanized performance that intoxicates us from the very first frame we see her to the very last. “Beast” fiercely and prominently introduces us to these talents and they have successfully managed to get me giddily excited about whatever projects they have coming up next.
While many independent films will focus on stillness and lack of sound or music, to much more heavily reflect our interpretation of the real world, Pearce never fails to remind us that we are watching a movie. The crisp and moody cinematography is perfectly complemented by a neverending soundscape filled with dreadful music (Accompanied at times by a haunting choir that is featured in the movie), eerie tones and sounds that alert us to the potential danger lurking beneath the lives of this film’s characters. Pearce reinforces this with several realistic dream sequences that fool the audience multiple times into thinking that Moll is truly in danger. The result is an exhilarating debut film due to its tension which is ratcheted up several notches the more we learn about these characters and whether or not they are as potentially dangerous as our minds are leading us to believe.
“Beast” is an assured debut feature film from Michael Pearce that will keep you guessing until the very end about where its story and characters are going. While the ending may be unfulfilling for some, the style on display from Pearce is so bold that it manages to make us feel uncomfortable, constantly questioning, observing and reflecting on our own inner beasts. And mark my words…Jessie Buckley is going to be a massive star.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A dark and intriguing mood and atmosphere heightens the tension of the story while newcomer and leading star Jessie Buckley radiates off the screen with sexuality and danger.
THE BAD – A slow pace. Johnny Flynn pales in comparison to Buckley.