DO WE ALL HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO MURDER? THAT IS THE QUESTION RAISED IN 'BEAST'
By Sara Darling
We all have a beast within; Whether we acknowledge it or not is a different kettle of fish, and Michael Pearce’s directorial debut, Beast plays upon this ambiguity with dangerous consequences.
A contemporary love story, the film is set on the sleepy island of Jersey, where everyone knows everyone’s business- or so it seems on the surface. However, dig a little deeper under this chocolate box town, and the locals are hiding a dark secret- a spate of young girls who have been raped and murdered, by the same suspect.
Cut to Moll, played by Jessie Buckley. Angelic in appearances- a shock of red hair, sensible clothes, younger looking than her 27 years. She looks like butter wouldn’t melt- but she has a violent past. Still living at home with a monster of a mother played by Geraldine James (and Alzheimer's riddled dad), she is trapped in her in her cultish family ways, of curfews and choir practice and saccharine sweet sister and golden boy brother.
When Moll is serving drinks at her own birthday party, you know something is about to explode. Her sister’s carefully timed announcement of expecting twins is the catalyst to push Moll over the edge, as she escapes to free herself with un abandoned passion and alcohol at the local club.
However our lead girl is no slut, and rejects the advances of her drinking partner, which could have turned sinister, had she not been saved by her knight in shining armour- the mysterious and brooding local Pascal, who is so neanderthal, he almost grunts!
This meeting provides Moll with a focus that is completely distanced from her regimented family. The shady Pascal fills her with intrigue and escape and the relationship she develops goes against all her familial values, and can be seen as a reaction to her snobbish, judgemental family, where our romantic hero saves her. But is everything always that simple?
As the relationship flourishes, the police discover the corpse of the fourth young woman and paranoia around the island is intensified. Fingers are pointed not so subtly at outsider Pascal, as the story unfolds as to what he was doing on the night of the last murder.
As any thriller, there is no such thing as black and white, and it is this clever tango which makes you uncertain who to believe. Pascal continues to proclaim his innocence, and Moll’s defense of him increasingly makes her a social outcast. How much she believes her own denial, and whether she is reacting because of her brush with crime as a youth sets a heavy ambiguous tone.
Choosing to pursue a relationship with Pascal, over her family, she is putting herself at risk. Fistly as a vulnerable woman- after all if he is the murderer, who is to say he won’t finish off his lover? But also by falling in love.
With fraught scenes, which will resonate with anyone that has been in a relationship, the two have real life chemistry, and their bickering is almost voyeuristic. The viewer is taken on a journey, where they don’t know who to believe, or want to believe and it is just as important what happens next, as what has happened in the past.
There is a moment Pascal shows his monster instinct, when Moll pushes him to move from Jersey, to begin a new life. His reaction is fierce and violent, and once again the mind switches to thinking he could be the murderer after all!
It’s very much a movie to keep you on the edge of your seat; Not easy to watch, but extremely watchable. Written in a way that you can’t not like Pascal, even though, you like Moll are suspicious; His charisma and confidence make you want them to work it out. When they reunite at a beachside restaurant, this is an heavily loaded scene where the air cackles with tension. Pascal’s enigmatic, evasive energy and Moll’s determination to find the truth.
It is questionable whether we need to know the truth, but the cat and mouse tension which has been an undercurrent throughout is finally exposed. We all have a beast within. Watch this for reassurance!
Out in cinemas nationwide on 27th April.
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