Contemporary World Cinema | 2017 | 107 minutes
Stranger Says: A perfect thriller has to have the right balance of suspense, threat of danger, lust and sex, and melodrama. Beast wonderfully has all of these things and a great cast. At the center of the plot is Moll, who lives at home with her controlling mother. While celebrating her birthday, which her family doesn’t seem to care about at all, she drifts into town, has a wild night of partying, and finds herself being rescued by the piercing-blue-eyed Pascal. The inexplicable attraction between these two damaged souls is immediate and palpable. Their euphoric rush of first love and sexual attraction is uncontrollable. Meanwhile, a string of murders across the island has the locals looking for a suspect, and Moll and Pascal both already have black marks against them. Beast utilizes a cinematic canvas that recalls the works of Jane Campion and Lynne Ramsay to create an intoxicating psychosexual journey unlike any other. (CARL SPENCE)
SIFF Says:Someone on the windswept island of Jersey (the British territory, not the American state) has been murdering a series of young women, leaving the small population edgy and wary of strangers. Amid this uneasy atmosphere, one resident, Moll (Jessie Buckley), chafes against her cold, controlling mother (Geraldine James), whom she still lives with, along with her Alzheimer’s-stricken father, and is constantly upstaged by her better-liked siblings. Seeking escape, Moll meets a mysterious French outsider, Pascal (Johnny Flynn), and doesn’t let his criminal past, his gruff manner, or his brandishing of a hunting rifle, interfere with their budding romance. As the two rebellious misfits are drawn to each other, suspicions increase about Pascal’s involvement in the murders, and about dark secrets revealed from Moll’s past. Writer/director Michael Pearce, a Jersey native known chiefly for British TV dramas, based the story loosely on an infamous string of murders that occurred in Jersey in the ’60s. In BEAST, his feature film debut, Pearce exhibits a mastery of cinematic horror, turning the spooky, gray-green setting into a menacing character all its own. This psychological thriller relies more on the subtleties and taut dialogue than on easy jump-cuts to ratchet up the suspense, leading to an explosive finish that will leave audiences guessing about who the true beast of the title really is.
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