By Victoria Alexander • Sept 3, 2018 •
Sensational. Buckley and Flynn are sensational. Skip the comic book movies and see BEAST. This film stays with you.
Imdb.com logline for BEAST: A troubled woman living in an isolated community finds herself pulled between the control of her oppressive family and the allure of a secretive outsider suspected of a series of brutal murders.
The success of BEAST would fall on who was chosen to play “outsider” Pascal Renouf. The actor cast must have varying degrees of menace, charm, sexual charisma, kindness, brutality and interesting – even if he is the killer. Pascal must be believable as someone who would liberate the sexually-repressed young woman from her cruel mother.
I keenly anticipated this stranger making his first appearance.
Praise should go to whoever banked on the first feature film of writer-director Michael Pearce. BEAST is sensational. Pearce is going to be in demand by Hollywood actresses. Yes, the star, newcomer to movies, Jessie Buckley, is thrilling and magnetic, but it is Pearce who is enraptured by her interpretation of his creation. The character of Moll is his muse. Moll is an unforgettable, first class “femme fatale with problems.”
Pascal is Michael Pearce’s highly original creation and Johnny Flynn is electric. Flynn has every emotion finely calibrated
BEAST is suggestive of two crimes that made headlines in Britain. For more than a decade beginning in 1960, the island of Jersey, off the British south coast, was the hunting ground for a serial rapist who raped women and children in their own homes. The press named him the Beast of Jersey and in 2002 two 10-year-olds were found murdered. The killer’s girlfriend repeatedly provided an alibi for him.
Moll is probably bi-polar. She would be a dangerous friend to rely on. Moll’s stitched-up mother has been beating down a rage for decades. Pearce cleverly sets up the frame of the story. Moll, who works as a guide on a tour bus, is a member of her church’s choir. She is the only person who is criticized by the stern choir director. Later it is revealed that the choir director is Moll’s mother, Hilary (Geraldine James). Moll lives with her mother, father, and younger sister.
At Moll’s birthday party, older sister Polly (Shannon Tarbet), takes the spotlight announcing she is having twins with her – by Hilary’s standards – “appropriate” husband. Moll makes a brilliant toast and leaves the party.
After dancing and flirting with some guy, Moll leaves with him. Outside, the guy’s sexual assault is stopped by a stranger. Moll, knowing full well there is a stranger in town killing girls, agrees to take a walk with him.
Moll has disappointed her mother and the community in general by her behavior in elementary school. She knifed a girl who she said was bullying her.
Of course, the police begin looking at new-in-town Pascal. He’s not a churchgoer and kills rabbits for his food. But in numerous interviews with police, Moll insists she spent the entire evening dancing with Pascal at the nightclub when a girl was murdered. Pascal did not ask Moll to provide an alibi for him. So, does Moll think he’s the killer or is she just trying to protect her boyfriend from being railroaded into being charged with the killings?
Here is where Pearce plays cat-and-mouse with the audience. When Pascal casually slips up and lies to Moll, we and Moll, know he might be the killer. He’s hiding something.
But then again, so is Moll.
With Moll’s alibi firmly in place, Pascal is released. In an impassioned plea, Moll asks Pascal for the truth. We believe her sincerity and so does Pascal.
The ending is satisfying and brilliantly staged. Michael Pearce delivers a brilliant, sadist tale. Buckley and Flynn are dazzling. I believed these two were in lust with each other. Pearce stages Buckley like Arthur Penn presented Faye Dunaway in BONNIE AND CLYDE. Moll might be a liar, but she is fascinating. Pearce sees that Buckley can express various inner emotions of lust, rage, passion, anger and desperation without words. Her face tells us everything we need to know.
Flynn embodies every fantasy of a dark stranger with an edge of danger. He is often so easy-going and ordinary, that you are lulled into believing he is genuinely being scapegoated.
I want to see BEAST again. It is one of the best films of 2018.
Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.
Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at email@example.com.