Moll is a young woman with a head full of tousled, fire-red hair that refuses to be held captive. She has a mouth that seems as if it's just waiting to break out into a smile, but never quite gets there.
No, smiling really isn't Moll's thing. Just the opposite, in fact: You could say this twentysomething woman is the human equivalent of a clenched fist.
Moll is haunted by a past mistake—a foolish, misguided choice that her mother holds over her like a bludgeon. And while wrestling with that and other emotional struggles, she also has to deal with real-world terrors.
Someone on her quaint Channel Island of Jersey off the coast of Normandy has killed four young girls in terrible ways over the last several years. And that ever-present horror whips Moll's dreams into night-sweat visions of being grabbed herself and abused by dirty, calloused hands.
On her 27th birthday, however, Moll's life takes a surprising turn. After bailing out on her own party, she goes dancing at a local club. And when a drunken jerk tries to force himself on her, she's defended by a stranger—a grimy guy with his own aura of menace.
Ordinarily, Moll would steer well clear of somebody like this. He has threat written all over him—from his tattered, dirty clothes to his scarred face and greasy blonde hair. But there's something different about him, too.
“You’re wounded, I can fix that,” this young guy, Pascal, says as he approaches her and spots her bleeding hand. He's not warm or witty. But he's tender. He listens. And Moll likes … his smell. But even more important than that, her mother hates this grubby stray.
And that makes him, suddenly, very desirable indeed.
Oh, and the more Moll gets to know this guy, who's good with his hands and a gun, the more she starts to suspect something: He might also be a murderer.
Moll isn't necessarily a person of virtue. In fact, the movie makes it plain that she is pretty immersed in and confused by her own anger and emotional pain—baggage that drives her to make questionable choices. That said, Moll wants to be upright. She takes steps to apologize for a wrong she's done in the past. And she does what she believes to be right, even though it comes at a great sacrifice.
Pascal suggests that everyone needs some kind of forgiveness, telling Moll that she needs to forgive herself for the past. "I know people make mistakes," he tells her. "If you keep carrying that around with you, you won't be able to stand up straight."
Moll's mother leads a church choir. Candles adorned with pictures of religious figures are placed at makeshift memorials for murdered girls.
After another girl is killed, a pastor declares, "God's judgment never fails. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ."
As Moll's relationship with Pascal blossoms, several scenes involve sex, partial nudity and explicit movements. We see Moll in her underwear and in Pascal's bed covered only by sheets. She's shown bathing, too, with the side and back of her unclothed body visible. She wears some low-cut tops as well.
Amid her own emotional pain, Moll picks up several pieces of broken glass and squeezes the shards in her hand until blood flows from her clenched fist. We see that cut being patched up later. But even then, Moll repeatedly—and disturbingly—presses her fingers into the unhealed wound to torture herself physically at key moments. These scenes of self-injury painfully illustrate Moll's deep emotional issues, but they could also be trigger points for any viewers who wrestle with the issue of cutting themselves.
Moll causes a car crash that leaves her and someone else bruised, bloody and cut. She has several dreams in which she's manhandled violently by masked men. In one of them, she slashes at an attacker and accidentally stabs herself in the chest with a pair of scissors. Someone else is violently throttled and choked to death.
Pascal teaches Moll to shoot. She takes aim at a rabbit, but only wounds it. Pascal offers to finish off the bloodied animal, but Moll kills it instead by repeatedly smashing it's skull with the butt of the rifle. While being questioned by police, Moll's nose bleeds freely, and she wipes the blood across her face. Several different men in the course of the film approach Moll in threatening ways—either by moving up into her face, grabbing her, or trying to kiss and grope her.
We hear about several murders, as well as a stabbing. Pascal, we learn, was accused of abusing a 14 year-old girl in his youth. At one point, an anguished Moll crawls into an open hole where a body was recently dug up, then covers herself in the excavated soil.
Crude or Profane Language
We hear eight f-words and one s-word.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Moll's angry at her mother near the beginning of the film, and we see her chug two glasses of some kind of hard liquor. She then goes out to a club and gets pretty tipsy during a night of dancing and more drinking.
We also see that Moll's choice to drown her feelings in booze isn't uncommon in Jersey. A number of people drink beer, wine and hard liquor at a dance club, a cafe and at home. People drink lots of champagne at a reception as well.
Other Negative Elements
Moll's spikey, prickly relationship with her mother is marred by parental dissatisfaction and manipulative guilt.
Moll lies to police and covers for Pascal during an investigation. She rips up a putting green at a local golf club to vent her anger.
Beast delivers a taut, disturbing psychological drama, one that cloaks unpredictable plot shifts even as it invites us into the troubled psyche of a damaged-but-compelling young woman. The film's skillful cinematography makes it feel as if we're wandering through Jersey's bleak scrub landscapes and jagged cliffs right along with her. You almost feel as if you're standing on a deserted stretch of beach, wearing a damp sweater as the cold ocean breeze ruddies your cheeks.
Beast is an unnerving film that weighs heavy, yet beckons us inward ourselves. It does that by focusing closely and totally on young Moll, its riveting and neglected protagonist, as she struggles with her inner trauma (very much in evidence as we see her turn to self-injury in misguided attempts to vent her angst). While examining her choices, the film seems to ask, Can horrible acts still be the right ones?
This dark, roiling pic and its provocative queries come at a price, however. Moll's struggles are sometimes as raw, primal and morally unhinged as the film's title might suggest. There's plenty of beastly content here—be it visual, verbal, visceral or violent. And the line between sensuality and violence is at times a thin one on a cinematic journey that chills even as it challenges.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Jessie Buckley as Moll; Johnny Flynn as Pascal Renouf; Geraldine James as Hilary Huntington; Trystan Gravelle as Clifford; Shannon Tarbet as Polly
Michael Pearce ( )
May 11, 2018
September 4, 2018