Monster Review: “A Wonder” and “Bittersweet”

by The Insights

Is there anyone in world cinema like Hirokazu Kore-eda? Year after year, the Japanese writer-director continues to create ironic, human and heartbreaking comedy-dramas, and each one is a treat. It won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Shoplifters in 2018, but, really, you could stick a pin in most of the last 25 years, and you’d have hit a Kore-eda movie that deserved some price or other. This includes Monster, written by Yuji Sakamoto, which premiered at Cannes on Tuesday.

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The first thing to say about Monster is that it’s not a monster movie, but it’s hard to define what kind of movie it is. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that they are three films, in three different genres, one after the other, which examine the same events from three different angles. The first third introduces Saori (Sakura Ando), a widowed laundress who lives in a small coastal Japanese town and has an endearing and jovial relationship with her son Minato (Soya Kurokawa). But Minato has started acting weird: he attacks her long hair with a pair of kitchen scissors, and he jumps out of the car she’s driving. Perhaps his behavior is due to being upset over his father’s death, but Saori learns that he is being insulted and assaulted by one of his teachers, the sleazy Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama). The mystery escalates when she goes to the school to complain, and the principal and other staff are so evasive and withdrawn they could be brainwashed cult members or aliens in human form.

This segment is a wonderful chill that balances extreme creepiness with the clutter and color of ordinary life, and functions as a Kafkaesque commentary on the difficulty of knowing what your children are going through and the frustration of trying to obtain clear answers from the authorities. But then Monster rewinds and covers the same period again, this time as a satirical dark comedy about institutional cowardice and social media, before covering it a third time as a bittersweet tale of bullying and youthful friendship. fragile. Each third fills in more pieces of the puzzle, adds layers to the characters, and forces the viewer to reevaluate who the title’s “monster” really is.

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