Beast is a British film that has a basic plot that isn’t exactly untrodden ground. Jessie Buckley plays a young woman living with her parents to help care for her father who has dementia. When a roguish drifter, played by Johnny Flynn, shows up in her small village, the two begin to execute a warped dance of desire. But when a string of rape-murders begins to plague the surrounding area, our main character finds herself torn between doubts and desire, a desire made even stronger by the danger of the doubts. The performances here are really just top notch. Jessie Buckley, an actress I wasn’t familiar with, gives a genuinely star-making performance as Moll, the troubled young woman at the center of the film; she brings her own demons to the relationship with the mysterious drifter/possible serial killer and she’s a dark character in her own right. Johnny Flynn has the harder part, I think; it’s not easy to play these “might be a killer, might not be” roles without things ringing false, but he’s extremely good, alternating between affable charm and quiet menace. Stalwart British character actress Geraldine James is wonderful as Moll’s mother; the dynamics between the two character is strained, tense and wonderful. Trystan Gravelle is excellent as a dogged detective who investigates the crimes at hand, but has his own larger agenda as well. Olwen Fouere is menacing and intimidating as an out of town detective who gets brought in when the deaths start stacking up. I feel like this movie was hardly seen by anyone and that’s a real shame, because it’s a top notch thriller, packed with interesting characters and a dark foreboding sense of dread. The film is beautifully shot and atmospheric. It’s dark, psychologically twisted and an all around good time at the movies. One might quibble a bit about the ending; I had some reservations, but it’s hardly a deal breaker, even if it is perhaps a bit tidy, at least by comparison with the rest of the film. This is the feature debut of director Michasel Pearce and I can’t wait to see what he gets up to next. This grim fairy tale is a great calling card. 4 stars.
tl;dr – beautifully acted psychological thriller is dark, twisted and loads of fun; an atmospheric, suspenseful debut that promises great things from director Michael Pearce. 4 stars