Review: Dark love story 'Beast' a knotty, twisted ride

Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn are both astounding in Michael Pearce's dark, dark romance

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Jessie Buckley (left) and Johnny Flynn (right) star in "Beast."

A troubling tale of a doomed romance and two young lovers headed down a path of destruction with their own demons, "Beast" marks the harrowing, brutally assured debut of writer-director Michael Pearce. 

The couple at the film's center -- redhead Moll (Jessie Buckley) and grungy Heath Ledger-type Pascal (Johnny Flynn) -- don't so much have a meet-cute, they have a sideswipe collision. After partying all night and taking off with a male acquaintance, Moll is nearly sexually assaulted on a beach when Pascal arrives as if out of nowhere, rifle in tow, and almost blows the guy away.

Ah, young love. The quiet, reserved Moll is enamored with Pascal, whom she can tell has secrets. As it turns out Moll has more than a few secrets of her own, which Pearce slowly releases over the course of the film. 

Several bodies begin turning up around Jersey, the island in the English Channel off the coast of France where the film unfolds, and the question isn't so much whether Pascal is the culprit, but whether or not Moll cares if he is. As their relationship strengthens, she grows more and more defiant toward those around her, and reveals more about herself in the process. That incident a few years ago where she stabbed a fellow student in "self-defense"? Maybe it wasn't a fluke after all. 

"Beast" grows darker, gnarlier and more deranged as it progresses and ramps up to its stunning finale. Buckley and Finn give ferocious, fully committed performances, but it's Buckley's spellbinding work that leaves a lasting impression. "Beast" is a pitch black ride into the recesses of the human soul, and Buckley is the film's cold, dark heart.



Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and some sexuality

Running time: 106 minutes

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