Monster Movie Review: Some movies captivate us with unexpected narrative twists, while others engage us through tonal shifts. Hirokazu Kore-eda's Monster falls into the third category, surprising viewers with perspective changes. This film is a remarkably nuanced and textured experience that holds your attention until the very end. It forces you to question and analyze who the real 'monster' is—whether it's a person, such as a bullying teacher or a potentially sociopathic child, or something more emotional and personal. I went into this 2023 film with minimal knowledge of the plot, and I'm glad I did. Monster turned out to be a delightful surprise and easily ranks among the best films I've seen recently. Monster Movie Review: Mohanlal's Thriller on Disney+ Hotstar is Not Just Awful, It is Homophobic Too!
What's Monster About?
Initially, the plot revolves around Saori (Sakura Andō), a single working mother, and her fifth-grader son Minato (Sōya Kurokawa). Saori becomes concerned when Minato starts exhibiting strange behaviour, such as cutting his hair on his own or asking about 'pig brains. His behaviour becomes progressively odder, like shouting 'Who's the monster?' in a dark tunnel or jumping out of their car. He also shows signs of injuries on his face, leading Saori to suspect bullying by his new teacher, Hori (Eita Nagayama).
When she raises concerns with the school, the response from the faculty, including the principal Makiko (Yūko Tanaka), is disconcertingly discordant. Hori initially apologises but later reveals that Minato has been bullying another student, Yori (Hinata Hiiragi).
Watch the Trailer of Monster:
The question of who the real bully is becomes more complex than anticipated, with Hirokazu Kore-eda and scenarist Yuji Sakamoto skillfully unraveling the secrets. Monster unfolds through three perspectives: Saori's, another character unwittingly affected by the events in the first chapter, and a final perspective that starts with one character and then shifts to another, filling in all the blanks.
Fire, Rain and A Glimmer of Sunshine
Each perspective begins with a raging fire and ends with torrential rains. The trope is even condensed to a singular scene where a cat's body is cremated by fire, and then poured water upon, while two kids ponder about rebirth. The culmination involves a light at the end of a dark tunnel, and a sprint through the bright sunlight, where two characters wonder if they were reborn.
For a film that's called 'Monster' and has its plot even threatens to trip into the darkness of human mentality - there are two instances where suicide is nearly implied - the film takes an unexpected turn towards hope.
The film has an incredibly layered narrative where the mystery deepens with the first two acts while showcasing the escalating concern of a mother raising a son without a father, and the increasing frustration of a man who gets trapped in circumstances beyond his immediate reasoning. But the third act envelops it all with its tender portrayal of a coming-of-age story laced with an aching love story. Themes of sexuality, masculinity, guilt, and friendship are delicately portrayed. Even a subplot involving a woman coping with the controversial death of her grandchild intricately connects to the three narratives, portraying her as a reluctant participant, aloof bystander, and gentle catalyst, respectively.
While the film offers an immersive experience, at times, I found myself contemplating the timelines of the different perspectives and grappling with unanswered questions, such as the motives behind certain children lying about a particular person - a kind of Mandela effect, maybe?
The performances are exceptional, be it Sakura Andō as the headstrong mother or Eita Nagayama as the unfortunate teacher. However, the true standouts are the two young actors, Sōya Kurokawa and Hinata Hiiragi, who skillfully convey a realistic emotional bond between their characters. Kurokawa convincingly portrays the conflicted Minato, while Hiiragi is simply adorable as this embodiment of sunshine (though not exactly a saint!).
Final Thoughts on Monster
With Monster, Hirokazu Kore-eda crafts a sensitive masterpiece within the realm of coming-of-age drama, skillfully layered through shifts in perspective. With exquisite performances and a delicate exploration of profound themes, Monster unfolds as an incredible and touching journey into the realms of love, guilt, and humanity. It surprises you in ways you least expect, showcasing Kore-eda's admirable finesse in storytelling and emotional resonance.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Feb 09, 2024 11:21 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).