The Beasts

Reviewed by Ian Payne

An educated couple move into a remote part of Spain. Their aim is to grow organic vegetables for market and renovate some derelict dwellings in order to bring back young people to the community. The Beasts is the story of the unravelling of a rural idyll as tensions between locals and these interlopers spiral into something infinitely more dark.

We first see Xan, holding court in the village bar – ignorant and loudmouthed, every pub has one. He and his brother have a feral dislike of Antoine, the incomer. In part this is simply because Antoine and his wife Olga are French. Principally though his hatred is down to the fact that Antoine's objection has stymied the sale of land to a wind farm company, depriving Xan of the money to get out of his desolate, hand-to-mouth existence.

The brothers' resentment escalates into actions designed to either provoke Antoine or persuade him to leave. Getting no help from the local police, Antoine starts to covertly film his encounters with the brothers and when this is discovered their actions become more and more threatening.

The fear that Olga feels is palpable and the director Rodrigo Sorogoyen expertly ramps up the tension, aided and abetted by a score that subtly evokes feelings of foreboding.

Antoine is superbly played by Denis Menochet, who we first saw in Keswick as an abusive and violent husband in Custody. Despite his bear-like physique and high principles, he is no match for the low cunning of the brothers. It is Olga who sees the matter through to a conclusion in a formidable display of strength and willpower.

Described as a psychological thriller, The Beasts had the Keswick audience utterly gripped as 137 minutes just flew by.