Good people trying to get by in life by doing honest work always seem to attract the foul kind of people in movies, and Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s 2022 thriller “The Beasts” is no different. Based on true events about a Dutch couple in Santoalla, the movie talks about a French couple that settles in the Galician countryside of north-western Spain and is harassed by their neighbors. What begins as knocked-over alcohol bottles leads to death threats and finally culminates in the death of the husband at the hands of the two vicious brothers. It’s a fantastic psychological thriller that takes a look at the extent of vileness a human can descend to in avarice.
“The Beasts” is a play on the word, as the audience is left to decide if the title refers to the animals depicted in the film or the humans who act worse than the titular beasts. The film doesn’t have a very long character list, but the story suffices all the same. Here’s a detailed look at the characters who help make this film a terrifying tale of greed and hostility.
Antoine (Denis Ménochet)
The picture of a law-abiding citizen and a simple man rolled into one; Antoine was a former teacher from France who settled in the countryside of Galicia with his wife Olga and wanted to grow crops in a sustainable way and restore houses. Antoine had a few genuine ideas: sell nature-friendly vegetables, fix up houses, and sell them to the ones who arrive to inhabit the Galician countryside, and people need to unite against foreign companies that just want to utilize a plot of land for cheap. He loved his wife deeply, and even though the world got darker around him, he didn’t stop loving her—probably something that helped his daughter bond with her mother better towards the end.
Antoine loved peace and was deeply opposed to violence—perhaps he was a staunch believer in doing no harm. He saw the world as a kind place where people can be unfair at times, but they wouldn’t deign to go as far as taking someone’s life—he was naive. His educated attitude stopped him from lowering himself to the level of the hoodlums, who started proving to be the bane of his existence and dealing with them in the same way they dealt with beasts. Instead, he couldn’t get past the idea that talking to people can solve problems. This belief that “people are inherently good” made him never take up arms against the family that harangued him on an almost daily basis.
When repeated complaints to the police failed, Antoine decided to film the culprits to catch them in the act, and instead, when the elder brother, Xan, spat in his face, he huffed and puffed with futile rage. The vicious brothers trespassed on his property, ruined his harvest, left him broke, publicly shamed him, threatened his wife and him on a lonely road, and yet his solution was to sit them down and expect they could be civil. The only action he took was to try to corner the younger brother Lorenzo and force a confession out of him for the police, but he couldn’t square up against the brains of the villainous duo. Instead, he got chased off their property with a gun pointed at his face, and the threats just kept increasing as well as becoming more malicious.
Antoine’s stubbornness to fight until the end to not give up the plot of land the developers wanted for the wind turbines would have stemmed from his desire to not bow down to threats or fight for what was his—either way, that’s what got him killed. He had had multiple chances to deal with the threat in the same way he had been treated—by leaving no prisoners—but an ordinary man cannot turn to violence that easily. The last time Xan said he was done talking to Antoine, he kept calling after the menace of a neighbor to know what he’d do but never stopped to consider that his wife was right. The scoundrel mentioned Antoine’s wife and how he wished he had a woman like Olga, and Antoine did nothing. Had he considered that Xan and Lorenzo planned to end his life, he should’ve kept a gun in his jacket pocket instead of a camera. In the end, his ultimate plan to catch the brothers in the act fell flat on its face because his camera was not found for several months, and when Olga did find it, the camera was too ruined to help. As it turns out, Antoine had a lot of great ideas, sure, but his passive manner of responding to an aggressive assault led to his premature death, leaving behind a traumatized wife and a hapless daughter.
Olga (Marina Foïs)
Antoine’s wife, Olga, takes center stage in action in the second half of the movie after her husband’s death. In the first half, Olga is the support that backs Antoine up and is indispensable in his life. She’s never afraid to speak her mind and can look into the eyes of the unfair police officers and point out the injustice they’re facing. Olga sees the world as it is: a cruel, selfish place where people seek ways to improve themselves, even at the cost of others’ lives. She was the first to point out to her husband that the two brothers had planned to kill Antoine the day they stopped their car on the forest road, and they would’ve, had it not been for her presence. She also knew that they wouldn’t harm her, and they didn’t, proving her right on both occasions. A hardworking woman who stood by her husband till the moment he died, Olga underwent major changes afterward.
Following Antoine’s death, Olga clenched her jaw, cut her hair short, and turned her grocery business around, making more profit and fulfilling her husband’s wish of rearing sheep. A classic trope that signifies the hardening of the heart, Olga with short hair is much more calculative, decisive, and ruthless. She never signed the form either, and the turbines were never erected in the countryside, and the brothers couldn’t sway her decision, even after killing her husband. During the day, she tended the vegetable patches, and in the afternoon, she poked around the forests looking for Antoine’s body. Determined and dedicated from the start, she did the policeman’s job better than him, scaling the area, making maps, and leaving markers on the places she had searched.
When her daughter Marie arrived, the two got into a fierce fight over Olga’s decision not to return to France with her after Antoine’s death. Marie calls her submissive for bending to her husband’s will while he was alive and following his dreams now that he is gone, but when Xan and Lorenzo scare the daughter to tears, Olga shoos them away. She finally finds the camera that Antoine had left, and although its contents were completely ruined, this discovery kick-started the search for his body anew. While Antoine had been chased out of the brothers’ residence, Olga’s confidence makes the brothers stand aside as she walks to their mother’s and, without mincing her words, makes it clear to the woman that her wicked sons are headed for prison. Her husband was more than double her size, but it was she who ensured that the criminals would now rot in jail. The complete antithesis of Antoine, Olga was the handler who tamed the beasts Xan and Lorenzo.
Marie (Marie Colomb)
The daughter of Antoine and Olga, Marie, lives in France, and the first time we see her is in a video call with her father from a local cyber café. She arrives in the town some months after her father’s passing, and we learn this is at least the third time she has arrived. She starts with requests, asking her mother to leave with her and return to France. When she fails to convince her mother of her fears, she chooses to chide her for her life choices, and even though her concern comes from a position of affection, the insults she hurls at Olga are hurtful, to say the least. After a massive fight with Olga, she decides to stay and help her mother, and she has no problem sharing her thoughts on the incompetent Galician police, which is more useless than the wired fence Antoine put up around his property to stop trespassers. She doesn’t speak Spanish fluently, so she admonishes the police in French and gets upset with Olga when she refuses to translate.
Marie chides her mother for not understanding men and being a pushover, but at the cattle market, she’s forced to be a mute spectator when Olga strongarms a sheep dealer into giving her the exact number of sheep she’s owed. Later, when Xan and Lorenzo scare her, she has to run and shelter herself inside the car as Olga loads the sheep herself after chasing away the murderers/creeps. Realizing the love Antoine had for her mother and introspecting at her failure to understand love, she leaves for France after hugging her mother, although upset that her father’s killers didn’t face the consequences. As it turns out, the same mother she didn’t consider worth anything brings the murderers to justice.
Xan (Luis Zahera)
An uneducated and insular man with a vicious nature and the obstinacy to not look beyond his own limited understanding, Xan is the neighbor of Antoine and the elder brother of Lorenzo. Their entire family has been in animal husbandry, that’s all he knew, and he never learned to dream big. With a septuagenarian mother depending on him and his younger brother Lorenzo, Xan was the main provider of the family and the one who filled his brother’s head with wretched ideas. When a Norwegian company planted the idea in his head to give up a plot of land so that they could set up wind turbines in exchange for a token amount, that’s all he could think about since then. An immensely xenophobic and bitter man, Xan didn’t spare a single opportunity to make Antoine’s life difficult and did everything from making him uncomfortable and humiliating him to ruining his livelihood. His hatred for Antoine stemmed from the fact that the latter was educated, experienced, and lived a comparatively better life than the inconsequential one he had led, and it was stirred further when Antoine refused to sign to give the land away.
For a small-time man like Xan, the money that the Norwegian company would pay was the only way for him to live a good life, and even then, his ambitions stopped at buying a taxi and driving it for money. His pig-headed nature to direct his entire energy toward getting Antoine to change his decision took up all his focus, and had he used some of his intelligence that he spent cooking up ways to harass Antoine and Olga more productively, he could’ve made something of himself. Xan was not a fool, however, and he was quick to catch on that Antoine was trying to film him at the petrol station.
Additionally, the diabolical schemes he cooked up to torment his neighbors, like urinating on their deck chairs or throwing car batteries into the harvest well, prove that he always had a criminal disposition. Even after ruining Antoine’s harvest and almost bankrupting him, he leaves the Frenchman no quarter when he says he can’t afford to leave immediately. He has a twisted sense of pride—he doesn’t mind ruining Antoine’s life, but when he shouts at him, the scumbag gets upset. His final attack on Antoine is for his life, and he corners the man with Lorenzo, and they choke him to death, the same way they used to tame uncontrollable horses. It’s a shame that we don’t get to see Xan and his brother getting thrown into prison, but watching their mother’s concerned face when Olga heads to the police station in a police car makes it worthwhile.
Lorenzo (Diego Anido)
The younger brother of Xan, Lorenzo, was never the same in the head after he had an accident while handling horses as a child. A little slow on the uptake, Lorenzo depends on his brother to give him directions for something that’s more than petty meanness—the extent of his abilities. He can harass Antoine by driving away every time he tries stepping into Lorenzo’s car—because Lorenzo offered him a ride—but he can’t say one word when Xan and Antoine have a verbal war. However, he’s useless without his brother and can’t function if cornered—something Antoine took advantage of.
Perhaps the greatest skill he does possess is being an excellent animal whisperer; he made Antoine’s guard dog Titane into an obedient pup, which explains why Titane never alerted his owners when the brothers snuck into the farm to carry out their atrocities. It was this skill of Lorenzo’s that sent Titane away before the two attacked Antoine and strangled him to death. Described by sex workers as a brute, according to Xan, Lorenzo is a lecherous man who crept out Marie by staring at her, while Xan terrified her to tears. Living by his brother’s commands, he, too, might have followed him into prison, although we can only guess.