There is no shortage of films about the way we live now, and Beast Beast does not help distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Danny Madden’s coming of age film has shades of Madeline’s Madeline and Elephant, mixing grace and terror into a single polemic.
In an unnamed suburban town, USA, three high school students’ lives are about to collide. Krista (Shirley Chen) is welcomed back on the first day of school as the Drama Geek Queen, whose anxiety causes her to take acting in the school play far too seriously. A few scenes of rehearsal will make viewers think of Jaques Rivette, and one wishes these scenes were longer to really capture what these young actors can do. Krista’s innocence is contrasted with the toughness that Nito (Jose Angeles) has been forced to develop. His uncaring single father kicks him out when he wants to entertain ladies, so the flailing teenager falls in with some party animal locals. Still showing up to class, he forms a quasi-relationsip with Krista.
Beast Beast is picaresque in its storytelling. Scenes seem to drift into one another with no real dramatic thread. The characters are reasonably pleasant to watch, and even as it hits the hour mark without any real development, the performances are charming enough to keep the viewer intrigued. The looming threat throughout is Adam (Will Madden), a gun-toting, recently graduated man who swapped college for Youtube. It’s not difficult to imagine where this is leading.
A floating camera doesn’t resemble Malick so much as WorldStarHipHop music videos. It captures the fleeting, free-spirited feeling of being 17, and gets inside its leads’ heads. A portentous, percussive score attempts to force its way in further. Beast Beast is produced by Thunder Road’s Jim Cummings (Madden is his regular sound designer), and that name will attract some US indie followers’ eyes. What viewers will learn by experiencing a sensationalised version of ripped-from-the-headlines events is unclear.
Beast Beast is available digitally on demand from 30th April 2021.
Watch the trailer for Beast Beast here: