When ADIFF 2018 happened earlier in the year I was given the opportunity to see one of the films being shown at the festival. This film is Beast starring Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn and written and directed by Michael Pearce.
The story of Beast follows Moll (Buckley), a young woman in Jersey who lives a socially and emotionally stunted life due to her overbearing mother (played by Geraldine James) and the demands that have been forced upon by her family as a whole. On her birthday events lead to her finally cracking and she goes off to enjoy herself at a local nightclub. When the night out turns into a rather intense engagement with a random man she is saved by a ruggedly handsome stranger known as Pascal (Flynn). Moll is immediately enamoured by Pascal and he seems to be equally interested in her. This is all against the wishes of her family but Moll strikes out finally utilising some form of independence and pursues a relationship with Pascal. She moves in with him and life seems to be finally starting for Moll. Unfortunately, there are several complications as the police are looking into Pascal as a person of interest in several disturbing cases and so Moll is put in an incredibly stressful situation. Does she stand by her man or does she listen to the people around her and come back to the life she knows?
This is just the tip of the iceberg, writer/director Michael Pearce has built a world filled with trippy imagery, characters with twisted morals, and a story that keeps the audience guessing. The character that exemplifies this exceptional craftsmanship is Moll. She is a deeply nuanced and troubled individual and as the story twists and turns to its climax the audience comes to understand on a deep psychological and emotional level. This is all compounded by an award-worthy performance from Jessie who brings such a raw and emotional vulnerability to the beaten down Moll who is only now finding her voice. Her partner in crime Pascal played by Johnny Flynn is no slouch, however. He is a bewitching individual with a presence that feels part predator part prince and this kind of character could have easily been one or the other and the film would have been lesser for it. With Flynn’s portrayal, Pascal is a fascinating character and you’ll want to see where his journey takes him.
Director Michael Pearce has been quoted as saying Beast is a dark fairy tale and you can see it in how several scenes throughout the film play out. Moll has several nightmares and how they are shot is a twisted look into how Moll see’s herself and the events of the film as they happen. Cinematographer Benjamin Kracun helps heighten the tensions already felt with the nightmarish imagery he conjures up as the story begins to devolve further and further into anarchy. If there are any issues it would be with the score, I didn’t notice it. I was too engaged with what was going on with the characters to care and for me, I need an emotive score to further bring me in and sadly Beast falters at that particular aspect.
Beast is a one of a kind film you don’t see coming but if you get to see it you’ll look out for everyone who is a part of it in the future. Everyone in this film is giving their all and you feel it as the film comes crashing to its climax.