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Beast
3.5/5
dir-scr Michael Pearce
prd Kristian Brodie, Lauren Dark, Ivana MacKinnon
with Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James, Trystan Gravelle, Oliver Maltman, Shannon Tarbet, Olwen Fouere, Tim Woodward, Morgan Best, Hattie Gotobed, Charley Palmer Rothwell, Tyrone Lopez
release UK 27.Apr.18, US 11.May.18
17/UK Film4 1h47
Beast
Who do you trust: Buckley and Flynn

james maltman
TORONTO FILM FEST
london film fest
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Beast This British romantic thriller has such a dark heart that it's not always easy to watch. Bleak and rather grim, it is full of characters who clearly aren't quite in control of their harsher urges. This relentless tone also sometimes makes the movie feel rather long and aimless. But the actors are so good at creating complex people that we can't look away.

In Jersey, Moll (Buckley) finds her 27th birthday a strain, mainly due to her ruthless mother Hilary (James), so she runs into the night. In the wee hours, she meets local boy Pascal (Flynn), a sexy rough handyman who's even more attractive because she knows her mother will hate him. But there's a killer on the loose, and local detective Clifford (Gravelle), who has a crush on Moll, thinks Pascal is the culprit. Unruffled by his suspicion, Moll falsifies an alibi for Pascal. After all, she's not exactly innocent either.

Writer-director Pearce plays cleverly with the mystery to keep the audience guessing about each character's motivation. Questions swirl around these people as the script cleverly reveals dodgy past events in their lives, then dives headlong into the messiness. The central theme has a strong resonance, as Moll struggles to release herself from the grip her family has on her. And there's also an evocative echo in the way each of these people are trying to remind others that they're not who they used to be.

Buckley anchors the film with a remarkably textured performance that hints at some very dark layers within Moll. The script kind of resists going to the nastiest places possible, but she still emerges as a superbly troubled figure straining against anyone who tries to control her actions. Her chemistry with Flynn's Pascal is sexy and unpredictable, especially since the actor so cleverly muddies the water by playing Pascal as a likeable rogue. Meanwhile, James is astonishing as a bitter woman who thinks she's the only sensible person in the world.

Unsurprisingly, where the plot goes remains enigmatic. There's the obvious meaning in Pearce's script, but subtext suggests a provocative web of other possibilities, which are frankly far more intriguing for adventurous audience members. Indeed, the title is the first attempt at nudging the viewer toward a preconception. So while the final act may be a little repetitive and muddy, it's also enjoyably unnerving. And it hints that Moll may be far more independent than anyone suspects.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 7.Dec.17

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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