Take It Outside: Our Review of ‘The Beasts’

Posted in Theatrical by - August 14, 2023
Take It Outside: Our Review of ‘The Beasts’

Antoine (Denis Menochet) and Olga (Marina Fois) just want to be farmers in Galicia, Spain. However, two brothers, Xan (Luis Xahera) and Loren (Diego Anido), won’t let them, and apparently, it’s all Napoleon’s fault. The couple’s French citizenship is part of the reason why Xan resents them, as he lobs anti-French ‘jokes’ his way, but he has another reason. During a game of dominoes, Xan brings up the fact that a company wants to bring windmills to their village. And because the couple voted against the windmills, he thinks they’re the reason why he’s not getting the payout that he deserves.

Antoine and Olga are the protagonists of The Beasts. It’s  film where its central couple couple finds out that they’re dealing with two men who will stop nothing to get what they want. There’s a silver lining of depicting this kind of psychopathy on film. And that is that it produces some of the most indelible images on screen. After finding out that their crop is wilting, Antoine goes into his well to find two car batteries. During that scene, the film frames him like this Job-like figure. But instead of God and Satan, the people playing with him are ‘hill people’. This doesn’t stop Antoine from dealing with the brothers with good faith, indicative of his levels of privilege.

Calling Xan a ‘hill person’ – The Beasts‘s words, not mine – feels simultaneously reductive but appropriate. Xan is the most compelling villain in any film that I’ve seen in months. The film knows what kind of arc to give him. Antoine and the brothers meet up at the same bar a lot. And the film establishes that doing so is an obligation for even for enemies trying to reconcile. Xan’s words reveal a humanity in him. It’s a vulnerability that he exposes before withdrawing it, as he sees Antoine as someone who isn’t worth the trouble. Not that he goes into that kind of trouble anyway, as he prefers to hurl insults in both Galician and Spanish.

Even if Antoine is central to The Beasts, co-writer and director Rodrigo Sorogoyen knows how to add dimension to his film and his co-writer Isabel Peña deserves equal credit with this. They shows us Xan’s angles even if that angle exists within Antoine’s larger perspective. They makes further concessions though, during the third act as he switches to Olga’s perspective, as she deals with the fallout of the three men’s actions. The film depicts her dealing with this quietly. Every time she looks out her window, the film makes us wonder what she’s thinking or what she may do. She makes this film the good slow roast that it is. So much that I forgive some of the things that may invalidate its premise.

Antoine, who apparently is a professor of environmental science but some of his actions make no sense. If he did, he would know how to make cops do his bidding or to install security cameras instead of lugging that Juan Carlos era video camera to catch Xan in case he admits to the battery incident. Life eventually makes sense for these characters but not before the nonsensical unfair things get in their way. In the technical sense, the film also uses background layers and great sound design to add to the tension to this thriller. Lastly, the dog doesn’t die, and there’s a scene where Olga treats her enemies like a queen.

Watch The Beasts at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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