A well-made, atypical coming-of-age film set on picturesque Jersey in the Channel Islands, Michael Pearce’s feature debut Beast remains lush and unpredictable to the end.
Full of assured shots and sharp edits, the contemporary story follows Moll (Jessie Buckley, TV’s Taboo), a kindly 20something with a troubled past who still lives with her parents, and the excitement that enters her life after a chance run-in with handyman Pascal (Johnny Flynn, Clouds of Sils Maria).
The two outsiders quickly take to one another, leading to humorous clashes with Moll’s well-to-do family, especially her humorless mother Hilary (Geraldine James, Sherlock Holmes). But it’s when Pascal is suspected of serially murdering young girls on the island and Moll grows wary of his potential guilt that the film hits its dark, twisty groove and Buckley and Flynn get to showcase new corners of their significant acting range.
Thickening the mystery is Moll’s violent past and some disturbing present-day visions that cast doubt on her own innocence. Where it all leads deserves to be discovered by viewers keen on small, powerful works of cinema — the likes of which rarely come around and sadly don’t stay on screens very long.
Grade: B-plus. Rated R. Now playing at Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Roadside Attractions)