Rayhana Chahin delves into the juvenile, disturbed mind of Molly, in Michael Pearce’s Beast.
Michael Pearce’s remarkable thriller Beast is what you are looking for on a Sunday night. The movie starts with Molly (Jessie Buckley), a fragile young redheaded woman, slipping on a yellow sundress, preparing herself for her birthday party. Nothing too provocative, except that Pearce’s magic is already operating. In the first few seconds, you already know there is more to Molly than the reflected image of her in the mirror suggests. She is hiding behind this image of a young candid girl in a yellow dress.
The film takes place on Jersey, a pretty, picturesque island where Molly works as a tour guide and sings in the village church choir directed by her mother. She looks like the archetype of the prudent girl every mum wishes to have, but this is only on paper. In reality, Molly is trapped in a monotone life she barely tolerates.
After an incident on the night of her birthday, she meets Pascal (Johnny Flynn), her ‘saviour’ – this is an encounter with another lost soul, a wild one, that will trigger Molly’s true nature. She instantly feels and enjoys the connection between them despite her mother’s prohibitive warnings. At first, we might think that, well, Molly is that stereotypical sad rebel ‘good girl’ who hangs out with the bad boy just to piss off her mother. Only, we know nothing about Molly’s past, and what could have pushed her to behave this way.
Yet, we understand that something bad happened through the character of her mother. Indeed, Molly’s mother is Molly’s past, and the key to her Pandora’s box. She reminds her daughter of her past like a permanent threat that hangs on her shoulders, her unspoken words and looks maintaining a constant state of underlying threat towards Molly to keep her like a vulnerable bird in its cage.
The French thinker Blaise Pascal wrote, “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.” Molly is blinded by feverish passion. She decides to listen to her heart and continue her Bonnie and Clyde love story with Pascal. However, the discovery of the body of a dead girl buried in a forest changes everything. Pascal is accused, and this shakes the delicate bond of trust Molly had started to build with him. Truth is blurred by sentiment. Scepticism is creeping. Doubt is suspended.
Beast is a labyrinth for the mind, but who is trapped? And who is the hunter? Everything is confined, in this slightly too quiet island, with the same people, the same judgmental minds. Doubt, suspense, small details, everything in this movie is carefully considered to leave you in apnea. The screen seems to paint emotions, and so strong is the increasing tension between the two protagonists, that it keeps you on the edge until the very very end.
This dark revisited version of Beauty and the Beast is no fairy tale. “Molly’s a wild one” says her sister – appearances can be deceiving sometimes.