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[Tribeca '24] 'Beacon' review: Moody thriller leaves audiences adrift

Movie Reviews

[Tribeca ’24] ‘Beacon’ review: Moody thriller leaves audiences adrift

Siren’s call.

Beacon is an intense thriller making its world premiere at Tribeca. Emily (Julia Goldani Telles) plans to circumnavigate the globe alone. She will also be doing it in the style of older sailors. This means no GPS and a complete reliance on charts and maps. She even makes an offering to Neptune, god of the sea. A terrible sea leaves her shipwrecked on an island where she is rescued by the lone inhabitant, a light keeper named Ismael (Demian Bichir) Before long, bizarre occurrences and an odd lack of answers lead to mistrust.

The film relies heavily on its cast. Aside from voices heard over the radio, Telles and Bichri are the only two in the film. They play perfectly off each other, with their impromptu relationship progressing into something close to friendship. Beacon is a somber piece filled with conversation that never allows itself to be one-note. Emily and Ismael go through a range of emotions that prevent things from ever getting tedious.

Director Roxy Shih never lets up on the suspense. Emily’s first encounter with Ismael is fraught with fear and distrust. It never goes away as Ismael spends the majority of Beacon trying to prove to her that he is someone she does not have to worry about. Even when she feels a little more comfortable, Emily never stops asking questions. She is trying to poke holes in anything Ismael says as she hopes to be rescued from the island. 

beacon

Loneliness is a big part of Beacon.  Bichir is great as someone who seems to barely be clinging to sanity. At the same time, he seems like a genuinely kind person. Emily is right to be wary of the “strange old man” but there is also the sense that Ismael truly does not mean to harm her. Still, it is clear that things are becoming more difficult for the two as Emily waits for rescue. 

It is when the horror elements are introduced in the final act, the story starts to go awry. Beacon seems to hint that isolation has affected one – if not both – of the characters. There are many clues that this could be the case for Ismael. But the twist ending makes it all moot. 

It makes even less sense for Emily, though Beacon seems to be hinting that paranoia and desperation may be writing her story. It definitely works better and the final moments which had the potential to be a real gut punch. Unfortunately, some dangling plot threads end up marooning the atmospheric film.

Tribeca Festival takes from June 5 – June 16. The full lineup can be found HERE.

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