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Chris Kavan's Movie Reviews (3338)

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Beast 
A Thin Line Between Man and Beast
3/4 stars

A series of murders has rocked a small, island community as a young woman struggles to find a place where she feels accepted, being drawn to another kindred soul - but both share much more than not fitting in - a darkness that lurks under the surface, waiting to be unleashed.

Michael Pearce directs his first full-length feature, and uses the basis of an actual crime (The Beast of Jersey) as well as shooting on location on the Isle of Jersey (where he lived at one time) to craft this small-town thriller that is as haunting as it is powerful. While the film's pace may be a bit slow at times, it's made up for by the standout performances from Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn.

Buckley is the black sheep of her family, Moll, working as a tour guide for the small island while living in the shadow of her "perfect" sister and over-bearing mother (Geraldine James) while caring for her ailing father as well. We know from the outset how she feels when, at her birthday celebration, her sister essentially hijacks the birthday with her own pregnancy announcement. Moll proceeds to sneak out of her own party, hit a nightclub, get wasted and hook up with a random guy. Come morning, when she finds it hard to fend off his advances, she is saved by the arrival of Pascal Renouf (Flynn) who drives off the offender and offers to drive her home.

Thus begins their relationship, slow to start but it heats up rather fast. Her proper family of course disapproves, but they are driven to each other and Moll is willing to leave it all behind for this attraction. But as their relationship blooms, the body of a young girl is found after missing for several days - the latest victim in a string of other young women. Pascal is soon one of the main suspects and Moll must decide how far she is willing to go to defend her new love.

Beast plays out like a dark fairy tale, punctuated by sudden, intense moments. Moll suffers from violent nightmares and we learn a violent event in elementary school is the reason her mother has been pushing her so hard. This spills over to her real life, the best moments of this film - Moll at a funeral, Moll at the country club, Moll at the crime scene and the final 10 minute rush - are about Moll essentially embracing this darkness that hides under the surface. Buckley truly shines and I am willing to bet this is going to lead to even better things.

Flynn, likewise, stands out - while Moll is all repressed fury, Pascal seems like more of a laid-back loner - but like Moll, when pressed, he will also act out. Flynn has great chemistry with Buckley and the relationship seems pretty true-to-life. His role isn't as flashy, but it is just as important to story. Likewise, James is a great foil for Buckley, as her uptight, protective mother who comes off as harsh but as you learn more about Moll, it also becomes apparent that might be for the best.

Beast is what I would call an emotional thriller - it's scary because it feels like it's something the could easily be happening right now, and it lingers in your mind because of it. These aren't masked slashers or the living dead - these are everyday people dealing with something they may or may not be able to control, but that drives them none-the-less - and that should scare you, too.


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