Writer/director Michael Pearce feature film debut, BEAST is a beauty.
Leonine flamed mane actress, Jessie Buckley is incandescently captivating as Moll, Johnny Flynn as Pascal Renouf, the rough trade craftsman and poacher, bringing a modern take on the Lady Chaterly’s Lover riff salted with bloody back story for both the protagonists, unfurling a fairy tale for adults.
The Beast of the title, you see, lurks within both of them, indeed, lurks within everyone.
Moll’s mother, played by the formidable Geraldine James, is absolutely beastly to her daughter, and the local cop, who holds a not so secret flame for the girl, keeps his beast at bay by bribery
Olwen Fouere as an out of town investigating police officer Theresa Kelly is a beast in bespoke clothing and by the book veneer.
Set against a background of an isolated Channel Island community, BEAST tells the story of two damaged souls, Moll & outsider Pascal, who meet by chance after her beastly birthday party. The attraction is immediate and palpable and Moll finds herself pulled between the control of her oppressive family and the allure of Pascal, a charmer and a chancer.
Meanwhile, a string of brutal murders across Jersey has the island’s inhabitants primed for a witch hunt. Moll and Pascal both already have black marks against them and Pascal is a prime suspect.
The mob mentality unleashed by the monster on the loose and the baying for retribution brings out the beast in the locals as well, racial prejudice and class discrimination raising the hairs and hackles of the local community.
Jessie Buckley is hauntingly maddening as the troubled and troubling Moll, a dormant volcano of simmering volatility, a magma of emotion kept capped but ready to erupt as tectonic plates of passion and oppression shift pressures.
Johnny Flynn evokes just the right enigmatic quality with a simmering, subcutaneous energy, an animal magnetism tinged with predatory menace and affable boyishness.
Michael Pearce’s debut feature is fierce with curiosity and imagination, a supercharged study of the wild chafing against taming and shaming.
The mystery surrounding Pascal is matched by our curiosity surrounding Moll’s psychological state: is she a woman courageously standing beside an innocent man? Is she someone who discovered humanity where others couldn’t? Is she blinded by love and unknowingly in physical danger? Or is there a more sinister dimension to her – is she taking revenge on the people that oppressed her? Could she also be a Beast?
Is it beauty that tames the beast, or is it a case of it takes one to know one?
Intriguing, provocative, powerful and unsettling, BEAST is a feast of ferocious story somersaults and unbridled mystery. A beauty.