Director Michael Pierce’s debut feature Beast is an ambitious and suspenseful slow-burner which despite its slightly flawed screenplay manages to thrill and grip its audiences from the offset. Set in a an eerily captivating windswept Jersey, which at times looks more like an out-of-season south of France holiday town, Beast offers a beautifully acted and fantastically shot tale of mystery, rebellion and passion. Pierce manages to convey a genuinely air of mystery and intrigue without ever overstepping the mark or opting for cheap cliches.
Jessie Buckley (Taboo, The Woman in White) is Moll, an introverted, yet secretly rebellious misfit, who whilst trying her best to do right by her very well to do family, is driven by the need to escape a mundane existence she feels stifled by, and an overbearing mother (Geraldine James) she can never seem to please. In between fending off advances from nice but boring police detective Clifford (Trystan Gravelle), and being outshone by her goody-two-shoes sister, Moll finds herself increasingly isolated from those closest to her. Enter Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a rugged, handsome and all together unsavoury character who is the only person she feels understands what she is going through. As Moll embarks on a recklessly torrid affair with the young man, partly to annoy her mother, she suddenly feels more alive than she has ever felt before. However, tempers start to run high when a man-hunt for a serial killer on the island threatens to send the new couple’s lives into a spin.
Pierce, who writes as well as directs, cleverly mixes intrigue and beautiful settings to tell a riveting tale shrouded in mystery and suspense. Using the island’s etherial landscapes, he manages to craft a weird and wonderful world for his protagonists. Buckley’s brilliant turn as a young woman troubled by her past, is as impressive as her ability to keep the audience guessing till the very end about whether she could be trusted. Flynn as Pascal gives a truly captivating performance, his demeanour is often menacing, but never off-putting. While Trystan Gravelle manages a commendable turn as the charmless Clifford, his ability to convey the rejection felt by his character is a testament to his beautifully eclectic acting style.
While the film could have definitely benefited from more thorough editing, it remains true that this is without a doubt one of the most impressive first-features to grace our screens in a while. Although not without fault, Beast presents us with a beautifully layered and compelling storyline which is set to transport its audience into a world where nothing is quite what it seems. A near perfect movie which sadly could have ended a good ten minutes before its eventual denouement.