This mystery/fantasy/psychological thriller opens with pictures of the body parts of a dead girl and then launches into a short scene in which a choir is singing.
In the choir is flame-haired Moll (Jessie Buckley). In lore, we know, bright red hair is associated with anger and passion.
The choir director, Moll’s mother (Geraldine James), stops the singing and says, “Moll, I need more from you.”
Everyone seems to need more from Moll. She is a grown woman, possibly “a little wild,” who still lives in her family home and whose severe mother is clearly afraid of her.
During her not very celebratory birthday party, Moll flees the house for a bar where she drinks and dances the night away, an apparent declaration of freedom.
The next morning — and still out of the house — we see Moll walking along the coast with a young man, presumably also from the bar, who pressures her for sex even as she refuses.
Onto the scene comes a stranger, Pascal (John Flynn), who threatens the pursuer with a long gun and then takes Moll home, where her exasperated mother sighs and says, “It was your birthday. We’ll let this one go.”
Moll and Pascal continue to see each other and fall quickly in love. As others fear and the Jersey police investigate the recent unsolved killings of several young women, the pair seem to exist mostly outdoors, perhaps as creatures of nature.
Indoors, they are less at ease. Pascal offends by wearing inappropriate attire — black jeans — to dinner at a golf club, a sort of tamed natural setting. When the jeans are criticized a second time, Moll grabs what looks like a 5 iron and uses it to whack the surface of a carefully maintained putting green.
Well. Tensions increase on all fronts, and the story moves along at a nice pace. In a way, this film defies categorization, a novelty among today’s mostly high-concept cinematic offerings (superhero, heist, horror, action, buddy, hangover, etc.).
The essential question here is simple: Who is the beast of the film’s title? Along the way to the answer, there is good acting and the sort of beautiful photography we get from movies made in the UK’s clement months.
“Beast” is the first full-length project from director Michael Pearce, a Jersey native who also wrote the script. We can look forward to more from him.