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By James W, Sunday 18th March 2018
Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow was a true showcase for world cinema. One of the stand out pieces came from Gabriela Amaral Almeida who wrote and directed Friendly Beast, a film so visceral yet beautiful at the same time, it left an indelible mark on this reviewer's mind.
It's nearly closing time at a struggling restaurant. Staff want to go home while the boss struggles with money troubles and a desire for more power in his life. Enter two robbers, the catalyst for a violent situation, which the boss is initially able to contain and gain the upper hand. Suddenly, the already dangerous and explosive situation turns deadly; sides are taken, and people turn to the most abhorrent behaviour in an instant.
This film looks so good and is perfectly paced that you'd think it had been delivered by a seasonal professional, to discover this is Almeida's debut is nothing short of breath taking. Her confident direction eases us into a false sense of security as a peaceful and rather predicable, bland night in a restaurant turns into a violent and blood-splattered nightmare. Ignore the fact it's in Portuguese with English subtitles, you lose nothing here and as with all good foreign movies it becomes natural to read whilst watching the drama unfold.
The small cast revel in their roles; we have the snobby couple, the desperate criminals, and the put-upon staff. Then there's the owner Inacio and waitress Sara (played to absolute perfection by Murilo Benicio and Luciana Paes) whose toxic relationship during a bungled robbery exposes their true form, the vicious animals that were hiding inside themselves.
This is a study of emotional frailty and desperation taken to an extreme, how when a person is pushed to the absolute limit they can break and unleash a wave of pure anger and emotion. This is a brutal film, but not just for the sake of getting a reaction from the audience. It peels the skin from "ordinary" people, examining human limits and their possible extremes. As for the final scene, I guarantee it will live long in your memory.
For a debut film this is nothing short of incredible. Its passionate, petrifying, and powerful from one of the most exciting creatives working in the world at the moment.
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