Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sundance with Abe: Beast

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the fifth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

Directed by Michael Pearce

Those who feel like outcasts tend to gravitate towards one another. There’s something about a shared distaste for everyone and everything else that can bring forth emotions and connections, a development that may be positive for those involved but not necessarily for the people who are the subject of their ire. If someone tries to build a relationship with a person others perceive to be a bad influence, they will do their best to cut it off, only further encouraging and inspiring that person who feels like their life is too controlled to do exactly the opposite of what they’re told.

Moll (Jessie Buckley) isn’t content with her life. When her own birthday party is upstaged by her sister’s pregnancy announcement, she escapes to a nightclub, where she meets a guy who doesn’t know when to back off, prompting a gallant rescue by the mysterious Pascal (Johnny Flynn). She is drawn to the quiet man who says he’s good at working with his hands, and her mother, among others, immediately objects to his presence and his disregard for their lifestyle. When a series of brutal murders has the police looking at Pascal as a suspect, Moll rises to his defense, eager to stand by the one person she thinks truly understands her.

This is not a particularly pleasant film, nor is it meant to be one. Moll doesn’t possess many positive traits, with her occasionally steady job as a bus tour guide as her only real asset. Pascal might be handsome in a rugged way and able to live on his own without anyone else telling him what to do, but he too is rough and unfriendly to all but Moll. Watching these two try to flee reality and start a life for themselves is an only moderately enticing process, especially with the backdrop of the murders casting a very eerie tone over the film.

Particularly because her character is such an outsider, it’s worth commending Buckley’s lead performance. The Irish actress, who mostly has a TV background, makes the antisocial Moll, who derives pleasure only from being detached from what she considers her everyday life, extremely believable. Flynn, who was at Sundance in 2014 with “Song One,” is far less charming than he was then, keeping the audience guessing about his true motives and opinions. There’s intrigue to be found here but the resolution is far from satisfactory, reaching a dreary but somewhat predictable conclusion without much reason for the journey.


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