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Beast

Jun 5, 2018

An unusual  romantic thriller with something to say about young women.

Beast

Grade: B+

Director: Michael Pearce

Screenplay: Pearce

Cast: Jessie Buckley (The Tempest), Johnny Flynn (Clouds of Sils Maria)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 47 min.

by John DeSando

“Something or other lay in wait for him, amid the twists and the turns of the months and the years, like a crouching Beast in the Jungle. It signified little whether the crouching Beast were destined to slay him or to be slain.” Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle.

Michael Pearce’s directorial debut, Beast, is a satisfyingly romantic drama whose undercurrent is violence with a thriller construct. On the British island of Jersey, near the French coast, Moll (Jessie Buckley), a plain 27 year old still living with her wealthy family, falls for a hunky islander but social outsider, Pascal (Johnny Flynn). Matriarch Hilary (Geraldine James) does not approve. Beasts abound some crouching, some right out there.

On that theme alone of class differences and the power of passionate love, Beast could have been a successful drama, showing as it does how the family’s foolish demands for correctness smother the young woman. Add the thriller component in which Pascal (think Mellors with Lady Chatterly) is a suspected serial killer, and the crushing familial demands are subsumed by the possibility that Moll has chosen badly.

The demands of family in the face of her romantic choice are fully attended to without going beyond the pale.  The beautiful balance is between the ardor of the couple and the dominance of family. The room’s elephant is the question about the serial killer and if it is Pascal.

Although the film seems to solve the question, the better side of the theme is the universal dilemma young women must experience between the wisdom of custom and the  rites of love that respect no restrictions, custom, or common sense.

“The escape would have been to love her; then, then he would have lived.” Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com