"You're wounded. I can fix that", is a seemingly innocuous opening line from Beast, but it speaks volumes about the film's two central characters.
Moll (played by Jessie Buckley), to whom the line is directed, has just met the mysterious Pascal. His multilayered comment clearly points to more than just the cut on her hand.
In his debut feature, writer/director Michael Pearce has created a complex and vividly lush thriller that sits you bolt upright in your seat. It is a brooding character study that investigates the hidden monsters within, borrowing from dark thrillers like Lady Macbeth and winking at classics such as Fatal Attraction.
A serial killer is on the loose in the small British island community of Jersey, a bad time for Moll, a sheltered young woman, to fall in love with a mysterious stranger but the allure of Pascal is too great to resist.
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As a murder-mystery plays out on the periphery, Beast focuses on creating, then untangling, their complex love story. They are two flawed individuals, who both wrestle with their own demons and although the machinations of the murder-mystery are ever-present, the film's real mystery is what motivates their relationship. Beast works best in these quieter moments of introspection and interaction between the two lovers.
The underrated Jessie Buckley (Taboo, War and Peace) is superb here. She drips with screen presence and her nuanced performance has Moll teetering on the cusp of sanity. Visually, every shot is a spellbinding feast of perfection, almost to the point of distraction.
It is a shame, then, that this excellent film's finale falls a little flat when an opportunity to finish on a provocatively ambiguous note is disappointingly snuffed out by its neat and tidy ending.
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James
Director: Michael Pearce
Running time: 106 mins
Rating: M (Violence, offensive language & sex scenes)
Verdict: A monstrously good film, hampered slightly by its tidy ending.