Review: Jessie Buckley impresses in slow burn serial killer thriller Beast

Jessie Buckley as Moll and Johnny Flynn as Pascal in Beast. Photo: Altitude Releasing

Jessie Buckley as Moll and Johnny Flynn as Pascal in Beast. Photo: Altitude Releasing - Credit: Altitude Releasing

Jessie Buckley delivers a searing lead performance as a guilt-riddled twenty-something who becomes embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer in debut writer-director Michael Pearce's deliciously creepy psychological thriller.

Jessie Buckley as Moll and Johnny Flynn as Pascal in Beast. Photo: Altitude Releasing

Jessie Buckley as Moll and Johnny Flynn as Pascal in Beast. Photo: Altitude Releasing - Credit: Altitude Releasing

Beast (15)

****

Jessie Buckley offers up an unusual proposition: the wallflower who stands out in the crowd. We are introduced to her character, Moll, at her birthday party where she is being generally overlooked but almost immediately you are hooked in by her.

The ruffled ginger hair is that of a young Nicole Kidman, but the face bears an uncanny resemblance to Thelma in Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads. And there isn't a moment in Beast (and she's on screen more or less throughout) when you aren't drawn to her and the complex and contradictory set of emotions she is conveying, seemingly without doing anything very much out to the ordinary.

Jessie Buckley as Moll and Johnny Flynn as Pascal in Beast. Photo: Altitude Releasing

Jessie Buckley as Moll and Johnny Flynn as Pascal in Beast. Photo: Altitude Releasing - Credit: Altitude Releasing


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Moll is mousey, put-upon, living at home with her domineering mother (Geraldine James), but with a streak of defiance that she can't quite let free.

That is until she hooks up with island bad boy Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a sweaty labourer and poacher whose confidence is enough to inspire her to stand up to her snobbish family. Unfortunately, her bit of rough is also a suspect in a series of rape and murders of young girls.

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Set on Jersey, Beast is a serial killer thriller that mercifully chooses to be more character piece than thriller. The is he/isn't he narrative is spun with some skill and the film looks impressive.

Occasionally in the second half you wonder if the script is really going anywhere. It does though have a splendid ending to let you leave the cinema convinced it was time well spent.

Director Michael Pearce's script is strong, but he is fortunate to have found two performers capable of delivering his fractured protagonist so forcefully.

Flynn, (brother of Jerome) is equal parts swagger and dopiness. He is like a country bumpkin Adonis. Crucially you absolutely believe that he could be either monster or entirely innocent.

Buckley also manages to make whole a character forged together from two disparate, almost irreconcilable, parts. I can't think of a performance I've seen this year that impressed me more.

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