Francois (Deon Lotz) seems distant both as a father and husband, despite his success as a businessman and his apparent concern for his wife and daughter. He refers derisively to gays and people of color. On the side, he takes part in a secretive sex group that only includes white men.
Francois acts coldly towards his wife, who might also be seeking sex outside their marriage. He scolds and complains about his daughter, rarely showing affection to her.
At the beginning of the movie, Francois sees the son of an old family friend. Christian (Charlie Keegan) has grown into a strikingly handsome and charming young man who considers Francois his mentor. Francois quickly becomes obsessed with Charlie.
Besides the other revelations, we also receive hints that Francois once had some sort of angry episode and still needs a doctor’s attention to control his temper. Everything keeps leading to the idea that Francois will soon make some terrible decisions. However, the film hardly becomes predictable.
The camera sometimes seems to linger too long before and after scenes, and parts of the movie left me wondering what had happened. All of that might reflect cultural differences in film-making, or just Oliver Hermanus’s individual style as a director. Regardless, I still kept thinking about the film after watching it.
Hermanus and a talented cast present a picture of bigotry, both how it hurts society and how it hurts the people who hold bigoted views. While the film also looks at the dangers of hiding secrets or ignoring mental problems, the ugliness of hatred destroys Francois even more than his drinking and his anger. Deon Lotz gives a haunting performance in the lead role and helps make Beauty a brutal but memorable tragedy.
Beauty is in Afrikaans and English, with English subtitles. It won the Queer Palm D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
Distributed by TLA Releasing