Beast has an interesting concept and takes the story in intriguing directions, but only has enough material for a short rather than a feature.
Director: Michael Pearce
Summary: Moll is stuck. She’s isolated on Jersey, a tiny island in the English Channel. She’s also beset by her domineering mother and her history of mental fragility — not to mention the false pity it engenders. Freedom comes in an exceedingly unlikely form: local loner Pascal. Soon he and Moll are enmeshed in the sort of intense, overwhelming relationship that only two outcasts can forge. Nothing can stop them, not even Moll’s creeping suspicion that Pascal might be involved with a string of unspeakable crimes.
The idea of meeting someone, falling into an intense relationship, and then finding out that you might not know them as well as you thought is a fear a lot of people have. Then there is the logical extreme that Beast goes to when the person you’ve fallen for might be a serial killer and rapist. How would we react if we found out there was the possibility that the person we love could be responsible for something terrible? That is the primary question that Beast is asking.
We see this unfold through the eyes of Moll (Jessie Buckley), and she is a fascinating character to watch. She’s the best kind of female character in that she’s a little ignorant, a little naive, but you can also see the complications in her. We go in thinking we know what kind of person she is, and by the end we’re not entirely sure.
Johnny Flynn as Pascal walks along the line of being a little sweet, a little alluring, and a little creepy, and we can see how a person who was constantly controlled by her family would find him appealing. The movie toys with the emotions of its audience as it goes back and forth between convincing us that Pascal is the killer and then reminding us that maybe he isn’t. As we watch him we also see Moll struggling with her own issues that make her look more than a little guilty, as well. It’s a fascinating backdrop set against the isolated English islands with high cliffs, small town judgmental attitudes, and crashing ocean waves.
While all of this is interesting to watch, there is a moment when the movie feels like it should have ended — and then keeps going for another twenty minutes or so. There is a long segment in the latter half that feels like it could have been cut entirely. With a tighter edit, this could have been a short film — under an hour long — that could have worked flawlessly. As it is, the latter half ends up feeling more than a little redundant, even as the movie continues to toy with our expectations. It’s not bad, but it feels like it keeps going when it could have ended in a way that would have had a lot more impact.
Beast has some good performances and an interesting story, but there just isn’t enough there to justify an entire movie. The latter half drags, which makes it feel longer than its 107-minute run time.
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