Beauty
Skoonheid

DIRECTOR: Oliver Hermanus

“It’s important to know yourself,” states Francois, the troubled and controversial protagonist of the provocative South African feature Beauty, Yet so extreme is this middle-aged married man’s self-denial that he is tragically unable to heed his own words of wisdom. A razor-sharp portrait of repression and its terrible consequences, writer-director Oliver Hermanus’s high-tension tale teases out many possible meanings behind its open-ended title, suggesting both a celebration of surface perfection and a state of inner bliss, neither of which are attainable without self-acceptance.

Successful businessman Francois (Deon Lotz, master of the slow burn), an Afrikaner minority in his rapidly changing country, is introduced as a devoted husband and proud papa presiding over his daughter’s nuptials, yet he’s focused more on wedding guest Christian (studly model Charlie Keegan), the college-grad son of an old friend. As his obsession with the cocksure young man intensifies—spying on Christian sunbathing and drunk-dialing him while on a bender at a hellish gay bar, all leading up to a shocking act of violence.

Hermanus, who previously helmed the award-winning Shirley Adams, ratchets up the tension with long takes, awkward pauses and exacting camerawork that places viewers uncomfortably alongside the voyeuristic Francois. Offering the flawed Francois a final haunting glimpse of the life he might have led, Beauty is a complex and highly challenging drama about sexual repression.

— STEVEN JENKINS

This film contains graphic sexual violence.

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: F103

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