beast (Michael Pearce) is a watchable if overheated thriller about a damaged young woman (Jessie Buckley) who finds herself drawn to a similarly damaged young man (Johnny Flynn) as their community is gripped by a string of murders. Making his feature debut, writer/director Pearce tries to elevate a very familiar plot with an undercurrent of feral sexuality and an oppressive mood of menace, and it works well enough for a while. The Channel Islands setting is just unfamiliar enough to set Beast apart from all the BBC series it resembles, and Buckley is a fascinating screen presence, withholding just enough from the camera to draw us in ever closer. (Flynn is considerably less interesting – though that’s mostly the fault of the film’s whodunit aspect, which requires every male character to reveal a streak of vague menace.) It’s not a bad movie, really, but it’s precisely the sort of middling genre exercise with which we are culturally oversaturated at the moment … and Pearce doesn’t do anything that makes Beast stand out from the pack. 107 min. NNN (Norman Wilner)
Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn bring out the Beast within.