Beast

Review by Amanda Harvey

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Michael Pearce’s feature debut is a turbulent insight into owning one’s insanity in order to regain one’s humanity. The film opens with a shot of a calming sea echoing the sky, but the environment become closed off as we enter Moll’s (Jessie Buckley) world. Moll is constantly berated by the self-involved people around her. It seems that everyone on the island is not only kept captive by the land, but also by their inability to escape their own selfishness. This selfishness dilutes truths.

The story centres around Moll’s relationship with the mysterious Pascal (Johnny Flynn). This relationship frees her; but it is not as good as it seems. There is a killer on the island. The killer’s motivation is to brutally mutilate underage girls. The entanglement of Moll’s personal problems with the very public search for a killer, explains the frequently used close-ups paired with expansive landscape shots; thus, believing is not weighted solely on what is seen.

As Moll’s relationship blossoms, the murder case burns beneath the very core of the island. It’s landscape is defined by expanses of forests, seas, and houses, and the story by people polluting it. The community of this small town are represented by her family: a manipulative mother (Geraldine James), an Alzheimer ridden father, a prized sister (Shannon Tarbet), and the belittling detective brother (Oliver Maltman). Moll is separated from her family. She is seen as the babysitter for her father and her niece and is more like the help than a part of the family. Her separation and sense of misplacement in the family is contingent upon a past transgression. This slowly drives a wedge between them. Who defines Moll’s humanity — herself or her family? Even through the freedom Pascal offers her, she is still held captive by her past - a past that continues to haunt the island. There is no fresh air for these transgressions to evaporate in, and thus, Moll heavily stomps through her own existence. An existence draped in mud, blood, and scars.

The story drifts from a restaurant to a tattered road, where Moll accepts a new definition of her own humanity. The means by which she is able to accept herself are cruel, but this humanity sustains the blows as she finally gains freedom, justice, and a genuine beginning to the rest of her life. Her truths are no longer drowning in the expanses beyond the island nor the ostracizing community trapped by the island, but she finally defined herself through her own lens.