Wednesday 26 September 2018

Beast - 2017 film review

Beast is a drama about crime rather than a conventional crime film. It's set on the lovely island of Jersey, but this isn't a tourist trap portrayal of the place, but rather one which brings out its lonely, bleaker qualities. Written and directed by Michael Pearce (no relation, as far as I know, to the author of the Mamur Zapt crime series), it's interesting and unsettling because it veers away from what appeared to be the predictable development of the plot.

Jessie Buckley, who was very good in the TV version of The Woman in White, plays Moll Huntford. She's 27, and lives with her family; her mother (Geraldine James, excellent as always) is highly controlling and at times unkind to her. There appears to be some mystery about Moll's past which may explain why she's less favoured than her sister. Moll works as a guide on coach tours, though this job plays no real part in the storyline.

After running away from her own birthday party, Moll meets Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a good-looking poacher who soon manages to unlock her wild side. But when a series of murders disrupt the island community, Pascal becomes a suspect. The main weakness in the film is that there is never any clear or convincing indication as to why Pascal is a suspect - just because he doesn't fit in to the community? Moll gives him a fake alibi in relation to one crime that could easily be checked, but doesn't seem to be. I felt this part of the story was clumsily handled.

Never mind. The story develops in an increasingly dark way as the police close in on the killer. Matters are complicated by the fact that one of the cops fancies Moll and wants her for himself. Despite some unevenness in the script, I found this a gripping film, splendidly atmospheric. Well worth watching.

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