Film Review – The Beasts (2022)

Denis Menochet in The Beasts out in UK Cinemas from 24th March 2023 from Curzon Cinemas

The Ten Commandments teach us to ‘Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself‘, including fellow humans, animals, and all life. However, in Rodrigo Sorogoyen‘s The Beasts (As Bestas), that commandment goes out the window.

The four walls we live within are meant to be our sanctuary, protecting us from the wilderness of the outside world. However, we cannot control those who become our neighbours. Life can be great, and we may get on really well with our neighbours. But there are also times when peace can evaporate into a living hell, all thanks to something big or even trivial.

Spare a thought or two for Antoine and Olga (played by Denis Ménochet and Marina Foïs) who have set up home in north-west Spain. They live in a village in the Galicia region of the country, where they grow their own vegetables and sell them in the local village markets. Additionally, they repair and refurbish abandoned cottages in their local area.

On paper, their life looks quiet and even idyllic. Antoine and Olga have many friends in the local area, but they also have many who despise them because they are French. We first meet Antoine, who sits quietly in the bar in his village, while the local men ‘joke’ about the French invasion of Spain during the Napoleonic War in 1808. One man, in particular, is leading the resentment and hatred towards Antoine: Xan (played by Luis Zahera). He calls him ‘Frenchy,’ and while to some that might seem like friendly banter, it suggests that something troubling is brewing.

We soon learn that the epicentre of the resentment is when Norwegian developers approach the villagers to build a wind farm in the area, promising financial rewards to everyone who agrees to the development. Antoine and Olga are the only two who reject the proposal, which angers Xan and his younger brother Lorenzo (played by Diego Anido). The banter and jokes the brothers play on their French neighbours gradually escalate, and tensions and tempers rise to a point of no return, suggesting that something unexpected could happen.

The Beasts is a slow-burning psychological drama thriller that utilizes mind games resulting in pure hatred, xenophobia, societal discrimination, and retribution. Antoine and Olga’s middle-class status adds another layer of tension to the story, becoming a tale of the haves and have-nots and class tensions, fuelling the brothers’ anger even more. Xan calls them “Hobbyists” as their move to Spain is a lifestyle change. The brothers and other locals have a difficult life, working long hours in harsh surroundings yet still remaining impoverished. The money from the wind farm would have been an opportunity to step out of poverty and get their mother her own home.

The opening credits scene sets the tone for the film, as we watch two men grapple with wild horses at the Rapa das Bestas (taming of the beasts) festival which takes place in Galicia. The festival has been around for 400 years, and Xan is determined to “take down” Antoine. The scene suggests that violence and aggression are simmering just beneath the surface, and it slowly begins to emerge as the story unfolds. Ultimately, this results in a tragic event that occurs later in the film.

Sorogoyen explores the differences between how Antoine and Olga handle the situation. They handle things completely differently: Antoine tries to face the problem head-on, only to make things worse, while Olga tries to diffuse things. In the latter part of The Beasts, when the tone of the film becomes less oppressive, tensions still exist and Olga stamps her own retribution on the brothers, not physically, but by making them feel guilty. Olga is joined by her daughter Marie (played by Mary Colomb), and fear and melancholy take over.

Denis Menochet is not a small man; his performance shows vulnerability and fear that comes to all of us, regardless of our stature. Despite his imposing size, he realizes that he’s up against the brothers Zahera and Anido, who are brilliantly menacing and creepy, and who know the land inside out. Marina Foïs is superb, with persuasive qualities, and she is also determined and fearless as Olga.

The Beasts drags a little in the final third; however, the tension does reside throughout the film. The film takes us to some dark, uncomfortable places that would easily fit into Sam Peckinpah‘s “Straw Dogs” or a Michael Haneke film. Although it runs just over the 2-hour mark, stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a gripping, unsettling thriller that reminds us that monsters do exist.

★★★★

Drama, Thriller | Spain, 2022 | 15 | Cinema | 24th March 2023 (UK) | Curzon | Dir. Rodrigo Sorogoyen | Denis Menochet, Marina Foïs, Luis Zahera, Diego Anido, Mary Colomb, José Manuel Fernández y Blanco


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



%d bloggers like this: