He may not be on our Television screens anymore, the spirit of Jim Bergerac lives on in Beast. Michael Pearce’s brilliantly dark psycho-mystery loved on the festival circuit, sadly missed on its cinematic run, now available to own.
Star-crossed lovers or star-crossed killers? The charming little island of Jersey been the setting for many Television shows and films over the decades. Once again its the setting for a serial rapist/ killer but are you leading actors just a loving couple or is one a suspect or victim of jealousy? Even Jersey’s finest TV cop would struggle with this one. A character study inspired by the true events of ‘Beast Of Jersey’, Edward Paisnel who committed a string of sex attacks on the island between 1960 and 1971.
In Beast, we meet Moll (Jessie Buckley) an unhappy young woman in her late twenties who attends church, sings on the choir led by her controlling mother (Geraldine James). She still lives at home and her mother makes it blatantly clear Moll is not her favourite sibling. She gives her no room to breathe suffocating her life, even at Molls birthday party she lets her favourite daughter outstages the birthday girl.
Rightly so, Moll escapes the party heads to a local club dancing and drinking the night away. On her return home, the man she danced with her at the club follows her home with only one thing in mind…sexually assault her. He pins her on the beach, however, she encounters another stranger Pascal (Johnny Flynn). He rescues her by beating the wannabe assailant nearly to a pulp then escorts Moll home.
When the pair meets, Pascal is like a revelation to Moll and opens a door that she’s been crying out to be opened for a very long time. He releases her from the oppressive castration and the quiet Moll we’re first introduced to is slowly becoming a completely different person.
We are also learning gradually Moll has a troubled past and this is probably the reasons for her mother’s overprotection. Pascal is a handsome rugged stranger who himself has a past, their first meeting was like a page from Bronte novel. He is our Heathcliff, a working-class young man unsurprisingly her mother disapproves of him. Sneering at his ‘personal hygiene’, a delinquent poacher with a police record.
The sex is intense between the pair, but jealousy is rife too. In the background, the killing and assaults continue and Detective Clifford (Trystan Gravelle) investigates, he also is in love with Moll. He knows Pascal very we’ll due to his police record. He tries to stitch up Pascal every chance he can get, but Moll is falling for his antics.
Michael Pearce has crafted Beast into an intriguing multi-layered psychodrama. Full of primal rage and intensity that will challenge where your sympathies lie. Don’t expect to find who the killer is as its secondary to the film. There is a social commentary especially the victimisation of the migrant workers who find themselves the main suspects.
Beast is a gritty, gothic, a confident debut feature built on spine-chilling atmosphere. Superb performances from Buckley and Flynn and if you need any further evidence the British film industry is alive and well, watch this.
Paul Devine | [rating=4]
Drama, Mystery | UK, 2017 | 15 | 20th August 2018 (UK) | DVD, Blu-ray | Altitude Films | Dir.Michael Pearce | Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James, Trystan Gravelle