While Jessie Buckley has made several notable appearances on television, Beast marks the first time she’s taken on a role in a feature-length project. And, boy, does she make a strong first impression. In Michael Pearce’s directorial debut, she’s placed at the front and center of the story, and there’s not a moment in which it seems like she has issues with taking the lead. There is a bright future for the young actress, and Beast shows that she is a force to reckon with.
Set in an isolated community on the Channel Island of Jersey, Beast is loosely inspired by the killings committed by the Beast of Jersey in the 1960s and early 1970s. But when the movie has several chances to become a whodunit type of murder mystery, it never does. All the better, too. Instead, Pearce solely focuses on 27-year-old Moll (Buckley). She’s had a troubled past, and due to it, her family - with whom she lives - becomes a little too controlling. She has a job as a local bus-tour guide, which helps her break away from her family issues. But it’s not enough. If she’s ever out too late, her mother becomes worried and questions where she’s been. Yes, Moll is technically an adult and has the ability to take care of herself, but after everything that has happened, and with her father falling ill, her mother still wonders and worries about her.
A little too much? Maybe. But, given Moll’s past, can you blame how the mother acts?
Things change when Moll comes across a suave stranger named Pascal Renouf (Johnny Flynn). He’s a handyman, and Moll’s family is a little uncertain of him. He’s always dirty, and he drags mud into the house. But, prior to Moll and Pascal wanting to start their lives together, the bodies of young women have been appearing on the island. No one knows who the killer is, but Pascal does become a suspect.
That’s about as detailed into the plot I will get with Beast. Again, it doesn’t switch suddenly to a murder mystery, but it is one in which the fewer details to know the better. Pearce focuses more on the relationships involved with the film, showing how Moll is trying to adapt to her new life with the man she claims to love and further distance herself from the family she’s grown to despise. It’s nothing entirely groundbreaking, but watching Buckley get so immersed into the role is something special. She and Flynn are magnetic together, and watching them enjoy their lives and endure the hardships of a relationship is a treat to watch.
There are some moments in Beast that get a little too exposition heavy. We do get some background about Moll that kind of feels like Pearce shoved it in there. There are some detours that Moll takes as she tries to better herself as a person that also feel a tad unnecessary. I understand it’s to show her mature, but it feels like it was shoehorned in.
The Blu-ray for Beast comes with a 1080p high definition, 16x9 widescreen presentation with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The sound is presented in a terrific 5.1 DTS-HD master audio with optional subtitles in both English and Spanish. The special features are somewhat lackluster, only consisting of the film’s original trailer, a photo gallery, and a making-of featurette.
In the end, though, Beast is a beautiful-looking film with captivating performances. It may be imperfect, but it’s Buckley’s film, and she’s incredible to watch.
Beast releases to Blu-ray on September 4.