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THE BEASTS: A Mountainous Unwelcoming Country Neighborhood


By Roger Costa


Academy Awards nominee Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s new drama is his most intense and unpredictable work yet. A nail-biting slowburn socioeconomic thriller, it follows the conflicts between a French man who moves to a mountainous Galician area in search of tranquility next to his wife and the local country men who oppose to the foreigner’s presence and his agricultural ideas and projects.

Winner of 9 Goya Awards, the Spanish version of the Oscars, including Best Film, Sorogoyen tells his story using an accurate, patient, observational mechanism that reflect to the confrontations as a product of xenophobia, racism or just insecurity.

In this case, the opposition for the new strategies of rural development, which includes creating a resort for people seeking restful, peaceful places, is a result of the local’s insecurities and lack of education, ambition, prospects. The “Frenchy”, as they insultingly nickname him, is a threat for their economy and traditions. At least in their perspective. Especially, the French couple’s neighbors: two brothers, who live with their aging mother, working the land and the animals, consumed by anger, rage, jealousy and disruptive behavior.

They are the villains in this story, persuading all the other villagers to go against the new residents, and creating harmful obstacles along the way. They insult the man, threat him, vandalize his property, destroy his plantation and plan even more, which could have irreversible consequences.

The same way the director observes the drama unfolding with patient lenses, he also infuses a sense of adrenaline, a rush to the blood, boiling the measures of moral, social and humanitarian relationships. It is hard not to feel revolt or disgust for what ensues here, as we cannot accept what we are experiencing. It accurately reflects the social problems and divisions caused by capitalism or mental disorder, so frequently impending people, groups and nations to unite.

The cast delivers fine, profoundly vivid and powerfully nuanced performances. Denis Menochet and Marina Fois, as the French couple, the representation of determination and integrity; and Luis Zahera, as the drunk, troublesome, lonely and tempestuous Xan: his character is fueled by anger and competition, as he fears anyone taking his place as the leader in his village, and at the bar. It is an impressive, scary and haunting embodiment of terror, living right next door.

As opposite to his furious personality, Diego Anido plays his brother Lorenzo, an autistic man following the steps and commands of his older brother. Both should be listed among the greatest performances of the year.

Making a great companion to the Romanian masterpiece “RMN”, which premiered this past Spring, Sorogoyen scores a brilliant and enigmatic puzzle, that ends all ideas about friendly, welcoming countyside places, exposing a terrifying side of the human condition.

Co-written by his collaborator Isabel Pena, it is a top-notch dramatic thriller, a taut and detailed psychological study that serves as an infuriating socioeconomic alert.

(A Greenwich Entertainment Release. Opens Friday, July 28 at Film Forum in NYC followed by other cities).

Social Press . 26/07/2023

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