What starts out as a seemingly poignant story of love and self-discovery quickly develops into something much darker. Set on the island of Jersey, the film follows Moll, a flame-haired, repressed young woman under the thumb of a stuffy family and strict mother. Despite her well-mannered demeanour, there are secrets in her past that begin to bubble to the surface when she meets the mysterious Pascal Renouf. The two begin a whirlwind love affair, but a murder investigation for which Pascal is the lead suspect threatens to tear them apart, thrusting Moll into deep, emotional turmoil.
Loosely inspired by serial killer Edward Paisnel, known as the ‘Beast of Jersey’, this isn’t a film for the faint-hearted. Though it is restrained in its level of gore, it’s not so much the visuals of the crimes that put you on edge, as it is the slow decay of the characters’ mental states. This is particularly true of Moll, who becomes increasingly disturbed as the film goes on.
Jessie Buckley’s portrayal of Moll is captivating. She throws herself into the role, giving an emotionally charged performance that makes you forget you’re watching a movie, and not someone’s life play out on screen.
Equally as impressive is male lead Johnny Flynn, who some might recognise from his role in the British TV drama, Lovesick. However, his dark and brooding character Pascal Renouf is a stark contrast to his part in the Netflix series. His portrayal in Beast is a serious testament to his acting chops, and it’s refreshing – albeit disturbing – to see him take on such a complex and meaty character.
Perhaps one of the biggest stars of the film though is the scenery. Pearce himself was born on Jersey, and he’s captured the island’s wild coastlines, roaring oceans, and dark forests in crisp cinematography. The settings add to the atmosphere of unease, being both beautiful, chaotic, and eerie all at once, much like the characters themselves. This is heightened by the impeccable score, complementing the scenery in a way that builds tension without feeling overly-dramatic or silly. It’s the jackpot of musical and visual harmony, the kind that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
There are multiple places where you feel like the film could end, and for brief moments you fear it will, but Pearce keeps the ball rolling, right up to the final scene. It’s a captivating story the whole way through and never feels drawn out or stagnant.
Beast sets out to thrill, challenge, and cause discomfort in its audience, and it delivers on all counts. A gripping nail-biter that will stick with you well after the credits have rolled, thriller fans should be sure to check it out.