The psychological British thriller Beast is about resorting to violence to deal with the stresses of a suffocating existence. Moll (Jessie Buckley) is 27 years old and still living at home in an isolated island community. She is haunted by the guilt of her past, when she attacked a classmate in her teenage years, and she is constantly on edge in the present, thanks to her mother (Geraldine James), who perhaps means best, but is way too concerned with decorum and is profoundly overbearing. A spontaneous decision by Moll to leave her birthday party and go out dancing without telling anyone opens up a possible path to a future that is not so stifling, but it also place her in the crosshairs of the investigation of a serial killer.

On the way home from the club, Moll runs into Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a rifle-toting stranger with inviting blond stubble that could be either the mark of scruffy sexiness or scruffy danger (or both, of course). Moll chooses to be smitten, but she has her doubts when Pascal becomes a person of interest in the case of a string of murdered teenage girls. Initially, she chooses to believe in him, even offering a false alibi without being asked to. She further presses her luck by introducing Pascal to her family, who are none too pleased that Moll is putting herself at risk for some lustful fling. But one also gets the sense that they are just as offended by Pascal wearing jeans to a country club.

Into this cauldron of angst and legitimately fraught tension, Moll cannot help but scream. Her instinctive reactions are confrontational, though she does manage to channel her violence in such a way that she keeps any physical destruction to a minimum. It is a wonder that she never strangles her mother, but the fact that she can control herself in that way does explain her fits of self-harm. In one moment when it appears that she is about to throw a golf club through a window, she instead opts for property damage that is cheaper and more symbolic and, I would argue, more effective. She is able to hold back just enough before she ruins her own life or anyone else’s.

That is, until the explosive climax, when every coil of tension within Moll is let loose. Eventually the real killer is apprehended, or at least he appears to be. But in this story, there is no room for a nice peaceful ending. I am not entirely sure what the underlying message of Beast is, or if there even is one. There seems to be a hint towards suggesting that even though a killer of girls is brought to justice, Moll is still a victim of all the men in her life reinforcing patriarchal structures. But ultimately she reveals herself as the most dangerous person around, making this more a portrait of someone without an adequate emotional support system. And that is good enough, as Buckley do doubt brings the pain and the fury.

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James

Director: Michael Pearce

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: R for Disturbing (Often Glass-Based) Violence, Angry Profanity, and (Tastefully Shot) Sexuality

Release Date: May 11, 2018 (Limited)

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