The Beast

Directed By Bertrand Bonello

Starring – Lea Seydoux, George MacKay, Guslagie Malanda

The Plot – In the near future where emotions have become a threat, Gabrielle (Seydoux) finally decides to purify her DNA in a machine that will immerse her in her previous lives and rid her of any strong feelings. She then meets Louis (MacKay) and feels a powerful connection, as if she has known him forever. A melodrama crossed by the genre, which unfolds over three distinct periods, 1910, 2014 and 2044.

This film is currently not rated

The Beast – Official Trailer (2024) Léa Seydoux, George MacKay (


In a similar fashion to how “Civil War” recently painted a grim and urgently disparaging portrait of our future, with the connective tissue of sociological familiarities, so too does “The Beast”, only with a story pertaining towards emotional dependency, and ultimately what comes to bare when those emotions are taken out of the motivations of decision making. It’s a fascinating concept that Bonello uses while in the confines of two star-crossed lovers spanning multiple generations, but the kind that feels easily relatable due to the unexplained phenomenon’s such as clinging to a song we’re positive that we’ve never heard, or being drawn to an opposing presence by some unforeseen force that makes them so psychologically irresistible. Because of such, Bonello’s adaptation of a Henry James novella doesn’t require scale half as much as he does scope to candidly inflict his sociological observations amongst a bleak backdrop, instead condensing the narrative towards two people, and while the storytelling does spontaneously shift us to who each of them were during these timelines in the past to surmise relevancy to the present, it never loses sight of the fate and chemistry between them that constantly brings them together during such devastating circumstances. Aside from the story, my first experience with Bonello wields a rich appreciation for the way he stimulates the canvas with meaningful techniques or visuals that paint such intrusive insight into the depths of his various characters. In the case of Gabrielle, it’s the way he tightly frames focus on her facial registries, an aspect that Seydoux constantly maximizes to a film’s tonal potential, but beyond that manipulations with the presentation that constantly fed towards the artificial intelligence of this unique framing device within the machine controlling her that allows us the audience to see things in the same manner. Lagging film, subtle color grading and versatility among musical score also composed by Bonello, each play a lucidly memorable and stylistically intoxicating permanence towards each of the respective timelines they feverishly adorn, and while there’s plenty of aforementioned substance to be had from mechanically tapping into some of life’s greatest unanswered questions, the desire for an intoxicating canvas to tell them upon doesn’t fall on blind eyes or deaf ears, instead marrying the two triumphantly in ways that can immerse us into the plight of Gabrielle, despite purifying not being relevant in our contemporary landscape. Bonello’s vision for the future is one that did bring to mind feelings of Cronenberg, with its simplicities in set design and minimizing human influence that only conjures a glimpse into this unique setting, but as to where Cronenberg films often are orchestrated by desolate circumstances, the world within “The Beast” is every bit booming as it feels lived-in with promise, creating a somewhat economically viable side to the future, but one undesirable to most audiences, as a result of the scrubbing of emotions that make interactions feel so artificial. The film is also acted exceptionally from Seydoux and MacKay, essentially enacting three characters for the price of one in their respective portrayals. Seydoux is one of those actresses who says plenty with a single solitary look, but also one emotionally who ultimately and unfortunately feels defined by her vulnerabilities towards fears, and how things out of her control come to define the way she approaches every situation. Seydoux captures our attention with a coldly chilling and isolated feeling to her trio of portrayals that feel like the one uniting trait among the various differences, and while this isn’t the first time Lea has beneficially steered the ship, it is easily my single favorite performance from her to date, based entirely on roughly 90% of the script revolving around her. As for MacKay, I’ve been a fan of his since “1917”, but here he feels like his expressive capabilities and emotionality feel unrestrained, especially in the 2014 timeline of his character, which takes him down some dark and at times terrifying roads. During those moments, George feels like he holds the tonal control for the movie entirely in his hands, and while I completely loathed his character during this timeline, nobody can say he doesn’t rise to the occasion in conjuring this very lonely man with an insatiable lust for self-wallowing that occasionally brought a laugh to an otherwise straight-forward tonal capacity.


While “The Beast” roars with a thought-provoking and at times unsettling look at our possible future, the lows of such an engagement makes it difficult to recommend to a mainstream audience, especially with an opening act that doesn’t attain the kind of necessary momentum to hook audiences. Most problematic during this section is clumsily compromising editing, which not only disjoints the storytelling between various timelines towards making the film feel like it’s being told out of sequential order, but also surmise these abrupt cuts to integral interaction featuring exposition that I feel the initial first few steps didn’t get enough of. When we are introduced to Gabrielle and Louis during the first scene of the movie, we’re given such little background or context that it makes it feel like the film is joining a story already in progress, in turn resulting in a conflicting opening act that easily stood as the movie’s biggest weakness. In addition to this, the film is far too long at nearly two-and-a-half hours for the kind of story it capably tells, resulting in lagging periods during overwhelming meandering, where the idea of less is more should’ve been corroborated. This is especially prominent during the film’s 2014 timeline, which not only feels tonally drifting from the rest of the film surrounding it, but also takes up a bit more focus than the other ages, which bare a stronger connective to the script’s thematic impulses. There’s so much around this section that easily could’ve been trimmed or downright cut from the finished product, and while I was thoroughly invested for much of the experience, I found my mind wandering during this climactic third act that took a bit more time than I would’ve preferred setting up its arc, and ultimately led to a resolution in ending that concluded things a bit too abruptly. Finally, while Bonello thematically reaches for a lot here, the answers won’t properly materialize in a single watch, resulting in the audience, some who ultimately won’t like it, to rewatch the film so all of the pieces converge to the succeeding interpretation. I feel this is a problem because I’ve always been of the belief that a film should say everything that it has to say during the confines of its run time, and because the abundance of its ambition occasionally overwhelms the individualized sections of the narrative, asking for rewatchability from anyone outside of the top five percent who thoroughly loved it, might require a bit more patience than can be justifiably asked of someone.

“The Beast” is a mostly competent Henry James adaptation that ponders everything from fate to emotional dependency, on its way to one thought-provoking engagement. Though flawed by an overstuffed run time and problematic editing that convolutes the execution of the sequencing, the film is greatly improved by meaningful turns from Seydoux and MacKay, as well as experimental direction from Bonello, whose triple-tiered timeline of exploration between two star-crossed lovers wields a rollercoaster of emotions that gives its titular adversary the kind of teeth needed to conjure inevitable tragedy.

My Grade: 6/10 or C+

One thought on “The Beast

  1. This sounds like a very intriguing film! The thought of taking emotion out of life and reliving moments in time, running into the same person over and again is an interesting idea. The acting sounds very solid, and I’m sure it makes for an entertaining watch. Not really my style, but I can definitely see the appeal! Great review!

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