Playing like an overheated Tennessee Williams drama in which all three members of a suffocatingly intimate family are deranged, The Beautiful Beast maintains a consistent tone of simmering unease. Imagine if Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was set on an isolated, pastoral French-Canadian estate, and you begin to get the vibe created by director Karim Hussain. Hussain adapted the debut novel by Canadian author Marie-Claire Blais, published when she was just 20. Blais was educated by Roman Catholic nuns; while the story, as told by Hussain, does not tackle religion directly, it is a de facto attack on conventional morality and conversative values. The film version, swathed in allegorical fantasy, tends to unravel rather than unfold; we feel less like we're watching dysfunctional family dynamics than being taught a lesson in human depravity.

The widowed Louise (Carole Laure) takes the lead as the family visits cruelties upon one another. She calls her beautiful daughter Isabelle-Marie (Caroline Dhavernas) "ugly" for smiling at her equally gorgeous brother Patrice (Marc-André Grondin) at the dinner table. What seems to be an unhappy mother-daughter relationship is turned sideways when Isabelle-Marie finds Louise and Patrice far too clingy with one another at bedtime. Are they carrying on an incestuous affair? Is Louise so jealous for her son's affections that she was offended when Isabelle-Marie smiled at him?

categories Reviews, Cinematical