Beast

Dir. Michael Pearce

"I'd like to make a toast to my family," announces Moll at the table in the golf club during a family event. Her boyfriend, Pascal, has just been refused service for the crime of not having the correct, formal attire. "For everything you have done for me," she continues, "I forgive you". Ouch, as sharp as a pair of scissors through the heart.

The rest of Michael Pearce’s script is just as sharp, available only in sparse, concise sentences that leave the actors having to demonstrate their acting skills. Each one does so admirably, none more so than Jessie Buckley, who plays Moll.

Complementing rather than competing with Buckley is Geraldine James, who plays her mother. She portrays a controlling ice queen, who, seconds after forcing Moll to apologise to her niece and brother for being a selfish, inconsiderate person, then switches like a thermostat: "Now, let's be friends again," she says, with a view of how matters will resume.

The film touches on subject matter such as bullying, isolation, guilt and reparation, all with a deft touch, but at the heart of the plot is an old-fashioned murder mystery.

Pascal, an enigmatic character without much background, is at the centre of police investigations as a key suspect. There is enough ambiguity and menace behind the eyes of Johnny Flynn to keep the audience guessing as to whether or not he has the black heart to commit the crimes.

He unleashes a hitherto unknown passion within Moll, which is again deftly handled by Pearce, who directed his own script for his debut. Each scene contributes to unravelling the story thread, but each is also wonderfully shot. Game of Thrones may be drawing visitors to Croatia, but there should be a surge in tourists to Jersey, where this film is set, in order to enjoy the vistas or just sample the midnight experience of standing in the sea as the spray washes over. All it needed was a soundtrack of The Who’s ‘Love Reign O'er Me’ to complete the scene.

Feeling she has found a kindred spirit, will Moll’s love for Pascal survive the trials and tribulations? Unfortunately, as the cinemas are flooded with second rate sci-fi dross, it’s sad to note that not many cinema goers may find out. Thankfully, places like the Savoy in Heaton Moor make the effort to put on such gems as this one, which is arguably the best film of 2018 to date.

Part Carrie, part Columbo, who do you reckon is the titular Beast?

Ged Camera

Background art: Beetham Tower Canal by Claire Riley