How far would you go for love? That’s the question at the heart of Michael Pearce’s Beast, a mesmerising thriller that has received plaudits and wowed festival audiences around the world, and which makes its eagerly anticipated arrival in UK cinemas this April.
Jessie Buckley stars as Moll, a young woman tethered to her family and their small island community. A chance to escape presents itself in Pascal (Johnny Flynn), an enigmatic outsider, who comes to her rescue after a night out takes a dangerous turn. Charming and independent, he gives Moll the opportunity to discover happiness for the first time. The pair fall in love, but this bliss is shattered when Pascal is accused of a spate of gruesome murders. Moll is forced to pick a side when the community and media condemn Pascal before giving him a chance to defend himself, and she finds herself facing some unthinkable choices.
This British-made psychological thriller is a breakthrough for three very exciting talents. Writer-director Pearce gorgeously lenses the Jersey location, seeing the island from an alluring new perspective and giving the story a unique landscape in which to unfold. Channelling Hitchcock in his feature debut, Pearce’s story is just as seductive: a dark coming-of-age tale that poses questions around every corner. We feel the exhilarating rush of passion in Moll’s new romance collide with menace and confusion when questions begin to be asked. The film builds to a crescendo that will have you talking once the lights go up.
Alongside Pearce are Beast’s two remarkable leads, Buckley and Flynn, whose onscreen chemistry is electric. As Pascal, Flynn has the layered charisma to pull off a character so laced with ambiguity. As questions gather around Pascal’s involvement in the murders, Flynn’s captivating performance keeps the suspense high and the air of mystery swirling.
In turn, Buckley gives an unforgettable lead performance as Moll, a woman who finds herself torn between the two pillars of love and family. In particular, her abrasive relationship with her mother (the excellent Geraldine James) creates the sense that this is a woman trapped by her circumstances, leading her to wonder if the freedom that her new relationship has given her can be so easily given up. Buckley has deservedly been named one of the winners of BAFTA’s Breakthrough Brits awards, and this committed performance hints that we are seeing a star in the making.
Beast is the kind of thriller that keeps you guessing until the final frame, and the suspense created by the story would be enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. Combine it with the cast’s staggering performances, however, and it becomes simply unmissable.