Anti-immigrant rhetoric swiftly turns violent in this hair-raising thriller

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Beasts
VOD, Sept. 26
4 out of 5

Runaway winner at last year’s Goyas (Spain’s Oscars) with nine awards, The Beasts trades on topics so current (bigotry, gentrification, social stagnation) it feels like watching the news.

While not quite a re-enactment, this superb thriller takes inspiration from oh-so-many immigrants who find themselves at the receiving end of the locals’ misplaced anger.

Hoping to have a go at living off the land, a French couple — Olga and Antoine (Marina Fois and Denis Menochet) — buy a farm in Galicia. Any hope for a quiet existence goes down the drain when they unwittingly anger the townies by refusing to sell their land to a wind energy conglomerate. They are the only holdouts.

Soon enough, the resentment gives way to sabotage of their farm. For two neighbouring brothers, the offer is their best shot to escape poverty and the French couple happen to be in the way. You just know the dispute won’t end well.

The subject is already a compelling one, but director Rodrigo Sorogoyen boosts its impact through foreshadowing and relentless escalation. The filmmaker is aided by electric performances by Menochet (Monsieur LaPadite in Inglourious Basterds) and Luis Zahera as one of the aggrieved brothers.

We’re meant to sympathize with Olga and Antoine, but Sorogoyen refuses to dismiss the townies’ grievances. There are no bigger tragedies than those caused by villains who think of themselves as crusaders as opposed to puppets manipulated by a larger evil, in this case, a faceless corporation. A must see. ■