François (Deon Lotz) is a comfortably off, averagely reactionary middle-aged Afrikaner family man who sometimes drives out to an isolated farmhouse for joyless sex with other comfortably off, averagely reactionary middle-aged Afrikaner family men. It’s not perfect but it’s a system. When his younger daughter starts dating Christian (Charlie Keegan) – the son of family friends, now all grown up – François finds the strain of his double life starting to tell.
With Beauty, South African director Oliver Hermanus presents some provocative challenges, most obviously in the form of the sexual violence contained in his story. But the film’s deeper challenge is the balance of perspective it strikes: it’s a grimly effective portrait of a man who has sealed himself off from his own interior life yet it insists that we see the story more or less exclusively through his eyes. At times this threatens to seize the story up but at others, Lotz offers an exquisitely excruciating portrait of a man who has placed himself in sexual and emotional checkmate.