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London Film Festival Review: Beast – “A beautifully twisted delight”

Beast begins with a strong and engaging opener that leaves you feeling like you know exactly what’s happening… and then spends the rest of the film making you doubt yourself.

When Moll (Jessie Buckley) ducks out of her own birthday party, she has no idea how much the night ahead will change her life. After she starts to reject a man’s rather forceful advances, she is rescued by Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a local poacher who threatens the man at gunpoint and then escorts her home safely… But young women are being found murdered and, as Moll begins a relationship with her rescuer, the police become convinced that he is the man doing the killing.

The pace of the story is woven together beautifully, with the mystery deepening throughout and luring you in. It’s intriguing and chilling, and packed with raw and complex emotion. Visually, Beast is a thing of beauty, enchanting thanks to the stunning and moody landscape. It perfectly blends fear and charm so you’re never entirely sure if you should feel afraid or protected.

Buckley is a revelation as Moll, offering a performance that is complex and entirely hypnotic. There’s a scene very early on when she is getting ready for her party that is incredibly simplistic but conveys so much. In this one dialogue-free moment, she fixes her hair, adjusts her dress and puts on her smile – and you just know that she is worth following through this story. Moll is clearly tormented and dealing with some emotional issues from her past but it takes a while before we see exactly what those issues are.

The supporting cast includes Geraldine James as the over-protective and cheerfully manipulative mother and, though the support is brilliant, the film really belongs to Buckley and Flynn.

With Beast, writer/director Michael Pearce has made something that is thought-provoking, shocking and yet beautifully subtle and underplayed. A beautifully twisted delight.

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