Writer/director Michael Pearce makes a very strong debut with Beast, an eerie, atmospheric and wholly gripping gothic melodrama set on Jersey.
Troubled island girl Molly (Jessie Buckley) lives with her controlling mother (Geraldine James). Molly then meets and falls in love with the mysterious Pascal (Johnny Flynn), who may or may not be a serial killer. Things go a bit Cathy and Heathcliff, and the scene is set for their ill-advised but full-blooded affair to get tangled in the police investigation, to the chagrin of the local community.
Pearce makes brilliant use of island locations, with big open spaces, spectacular cliffs and sea vistas providing a great visual counterpoint to the incestuous, everyone-knows-everyone claustrophobia amongst the islanders. Performances are terrific, especially from Buckley. Benjamin Kracun’s cinematography is beautiful, bleak and menacing, and Jim Williams contributes a fine music score.
The usual warnings are warranted for sex, violence and bad language, for those put off by such things. However, those who enjoy a heady brew of torrid passions, slow-burn suspense and teasing is-he/isn’t-he ambiguity will find themselves most satisfied. The drama twists, turns and shocks, right up to the very last frame. I loved it.