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Beast

Be careful what you unleash

Featuring a truly breakthrough performance (maybe two) and announcing writer/director Michael Pearce as a talent to watch, the psychological thriller Beast takes a cynical look at human behaviour.

Poster for psychological thriller BeastJessie Buckley plays Moll, a troubled young woman in an isolated community on the British island of Jersey, who doesn’t seem to have many options for adventure or escape. Her family is relatively horrible, forcing her to run off on the very occasion of her birthday party just to escape them. After a night of drinking and clubbing, she ends up in an isolated location with a male stranger, who gets a little too aggressive. Stepping into the rescue is a mysterious stranger named Pascal (Johnny Flynn), who soon becomes Moll’s boyfriend.

Pascal is the opposite of her family – rugged, athletic, and dangerous. Maybe too dangerous. Did I mention there’s a serial killer in town? Even Moll starts to wonder whether the ‘bad boy’ might be serial-killer bad.

The most daring question that Beast asks is whether or not Moll is desperate enough and in love enough to forgive Pascal even if he is a murderer. Flynn is stellar, blending natural screen charisma and an undercurrent of menace. But the movie belongs to Buckley, a young actress who could easily become a star. She shades Moll with just enough of her own sociopathology that it adds a layer of uncertainty that Beast would otherwise lack. We could easily see Moll running off with Pascal in a Bonnie and Clyde orgy of violence, or turning her boyfriend in if he ends up being a murderer. She’s fully immersed in the most important chapter of her life to date and Buckley conveys this in ways that don’t feel melodramatic or manipulative. It’s a great performance.

– Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

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