‘You’re wounded. Well, I can fix that.’
Sometimes you’ll hear a piece of dialogue in a film that perfectly captures the topic, mood and tone. That’s true of the quote above. It’s a throwaway line, uttered by Pascal (Johnny Flynn, playing a character very different from Dylan from Netflix fantastic tv show Love Sick) to Moll (Jessie Buckley, whom you most likely either know from the musical reality show I’d Do Anything or from the BBC’S most recent adaptation of War & Peace).
Pascal’s observation isn’t necessarily profound, after all Moll has clearly injured her hand previously and is bleeding through the bandage. What he doesn’t know is that the wound was self-inflicted. She turned to self-harm, seemingly once more, when her birthday BBQ party turned into her sister’s pregnancy announcement. For a brief moment she felt like her family were noticing her, finally showing that they cared about her, before being relegated back to the least important or cared about member of the family. The reason for her family treating her so oddly is alluded to early on and explored in some detail further in, but this never fully justifies her mother Hilary’s (Geraldine James) oppressive regimental treatment of Moll. Hilary suffocates Moll, controls and monitors her, ‘for her own good’.
Prompted to reatliate, or at the very least escape, Moll’s act of rebellion is to leave the party and go to a nightclub. Something which very nearly goes wrong. Until Pascal enters her life and saves her; thereby Moll gets some semblance of escape. Pascal is the antithesis of the middle class mollycoddling she endures at home. He’s a wild creature invading their placid sensibilities. He’s the epitome of a bold red invading the magnolia-coloured walls of the fortress her mother has placed her in.
Wolves have a keen sense for injured creatures, they’re able to sniff them out with ease and then snuff them out just as quickly. The question is, just how dangerous a wolf is Pascal? A series of brutal murders, the victims all being young girls, are haunting their home of Jersey. Many suspect Pascal is the murderer, with his secretive and allusive outsider ways unsettling many. The ambiguity and uncertainty about the nature of Pascal is the driving force for the film. Is he the killer? And, do we really want to find out?
Flynn does an excellent job in the role, immensely watchable to an unsettling extent. Every movement or gesture has a purpose, we read into every single one in a desperate attempt to conclude whether he is the murderer. There’s certainly some unnerving aspects to his character but there’s some charming one’s too. Also, rather fundamentally, he rescued Moll from her tyrannical mother. Doesn’t our society teach us that that makes him a good guy…?
This is Buckley’s film however. She plays a deceptively complicated character, one with multiple layers and one we find ourselves struggling to truly like. There’s an edge to her, less apparent that Pascal’s but as equally dark. It’s clear that she’s not happy, the way her family treat her explains more than a few things; but in itself that prompts more questions. What exactly did she do to warrant being spoken to in this way? Could it really be that bad?
The film plays out in a tense and slow-revealing manner, often prompting more questions than answering questions. There’s something Hitchcockian about it, almost in the style of 1941’s Suspicion. Just how well can we ever really know a person?
Beast is in UK cinemas from 27th April.