The Beasts | As Bestas (2022)

October 2nd, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Rodrigo Sorogoyen | Cast: Denis Menochet, Marine Fois, Diego Anido, Luis Zahara, Marie Colomb | Spain, Thriller 137′

A stunning slo-mo sequence involving wild horses opens this smouldering psychological thriller from Rodrigo Sorogoyen, providing the key to the tragedy that will follow.

Antoine (Denis Menochet) and Olga (Marina Fois) have come from France to live in a remote rural part of Galicia where they grow and sell vegetables in the local market and restore derelict houses respectful of the environmental and ecological issues involved. Although most of the locals in the tightly knit community of rough-hewn feral farming folk are friendly, Xan (Luis Zahara) and his devious younger brother Lorenzo (Diego Anido) resent the comparative newcomers, and we soon discover why.

Denis Menochet is one of those actors capable of extreme sensitivity and frightening physical power and he brings the full force of his talents to Antoine counterbalancing the subtle persuasive power of Marina Fois’ Olga in a tale that unfolds with slow-burn intensity in the lush rolling hills and verdant pastures of Spain’s rainy north-eastern corner.

Luis Zahera’s Xan is very much a match for him although clearly cut from coarser cloth that the more sophisticated Frenchman and his wife who are seen as hobbyists who are dwelling amongst them as a lifestyle choice in contrast to the dour existence endured by the local ‘hill-folk’ whose only chance to escape their gruelling poverty is through a proposal from developers.

Tensions mount after a dispute in these planning regulations and an undercurrent of edgy mistrust fuels the human interactions that mostly take place in the local bar where provocative sparring matches between Antoine and the brothers are in stark contrast to the muted beauty of the rural idyll.

The focus then turns to the female characters of Olga and her daughter Marie (Columb) whose differences are gradually resolved in a more meaningful way providing the film with its resolute and emotionally-charged final scenes that show how calm strength of character and perseverance are what really counts in dispute resolution when seeking justice and a successful conclusion. Sorogoyen and Isabel Pena’s brilliant script and clever use of contrast in both setting and characterisation make this riveting from start to finish. MT

BEST ACTRESS: MARINA FOIS | ANTALYA FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | SAN SEBASTIAN FILM FESTIVAL AUDIENCE AWARD.

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