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Movie Reviews

The Beasts ★★★★



Director: Rodrigo Sorogoyen

Cast: Denis Ménochet, Marina Foïs, Luis Zahera

Release: March 24, 2023 

In cinematic circles, there has been an age-old debate about the slow-burn flick. A minority of people can bask in its pleasures, while a majority takes issue with narratives that can possibly be argued as mundane and frustrating. Objectively, it comes down to execution. When done well, a slow-burn story holds you in a firm grip of unexpected anticipation — something director Rodrigo Sorogoyen deploys to near-perfection in The Beasts. Subconsciously making a case for films that don’t do things by the mainstream book of ballbusting, the film’s plot is both surface-level and penetrative, yet masters both to great effect.

In the Spanish countryside, Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and his wife Olga (Marina Foïs) are building a home based around their connection to nature. After voting against plans to install local wind turbines, the locals don’t take too kindly to the pair’s presence, with regular xenophobic attacks spearheaded by Xan (Luis Zahera). As the situation continues to escalate, tensions rise between the two sides.

At its core, The Beasts is an overly simple premise. The next in line for Romeo + Juliet and Apocalypse Now’s level of sparring mano-a-mano hostility, Sorogoyen takes things in a subtly different direction by keeping his sense of hatred grounded. Xenophobic thinking is openly confronted and challenged, yet at the same time doesn’t break any new ground in terms of collective social thinking. If anything, it’s almost refreshing to be reminded that discriminatory behaviour exists in a wider European lens, which is a far cry from the relaxing countryside retreats viewed through rose-tinted glasses. There’s an intriguing blend of deadbeat machismo and internal conflict that’s both stimulating and passé at the same time, with Xan’s behaviour in particular nothing short of something you’d see at a Wetherspoons on a Friday night. We know these people as well as their end game, yet we can’t help but continue to guess what is next. 

Where The Beasts really sings is its overall construction, which is nothing short of perfection. Between stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains and moments of intense speculation and internal struggles, Sorogoyen utilises a plethora of tools that come together to form his own kind of brooding silence. This is particularly heightened by the fact Olga is able to sit in her own discomfort, working against the idea that women have to flee the scene whenever they are faced with hurt they’re not responsible for. Though her daughter can’t understand why she chooses to stand by the community, Olga never backs down from her self-assured decisions, leading to a pointed and well-rounded confrontation with Xan’s mother. Though it may feel like there is something missing in the moment, The Beasts is a story that only increases its grip over time. Difficult to pinpoint but effectively self-explanatory, Sorogoyen’s style somehow tries to embody everything under the sun, and is mostly successful.

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