Monster (2024) | Review

Monster is a terrifically constructed film that balances three differing perspectives into a fulfilling and unified story.

monster poster
Source: The Movie Database

Synopsis: A mother confronts a schoolteacher after noticing a strange change in her son's behaviour.

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Sakura Andō, Eita Nagayama, Sōya Kurokawa, Hinata Hiiragi, Akihiro Tsunoda

Monster is an interesting puzzlebox of a movie but not one that will have you stressfully hoping that the answers will be worth your time. Instead, it logically unfolds into a touching coming of age story that marks another entertaining chapter in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s exploration of makeshift families.

Three perspectives are used and each delivers and effective segment of the film before handing off to the tonal shift of the next. Things start with Saori Mugino, a single parent worrying about her son, Minato, whose behaviour seems to be increasingly erratic. When Minato claims to have been struck by his schoolteacher, Saori enters into several nervously-humorous meetings with his school principle who is intent on apologising without any emotion of admission of what happened.

So is Monster a story that skewers corporate apologies and takes institutions to task? Not when the perspective then shifts to the teacher, Michitoshi Hori. From there, a tragedy takes shape of someone wrongfully accused of wrongdoing and hung out to dry by his workplace. One particular instance had me squirming in my seat: when the schoolchildren are given a questionnaire about their teachers just a few scenes before Hori resigns. My father was shafted in a very similar fashion by his long-time workplace at the end of his career, so rest assured while I was fully into the movie at this point, my ears certainly pricked up.

screencap from monster
Source: The Movie Database

A third and final perspective change to Minato himself revels the truth of everything and it’s much more tender and pleasant than the film’s previous pieces seem to build towards. Still, there’s a harmony to the drama, rather than feeling as though things have deflated. On several occasions, Minato and his school friend Yori contemplate that there are some things they just can’t bring themselves to speak to their parents about (and lord haven’t we all been there when growing up?)

In the adult world view of Monster, things are drastic, trying, puzzling, and knock-your-head-against-a-wall frustrating. When something goes wrong, the characters and the audience will assume the worst and make an enemy out of who might be responsible. From the view of the children, things are much more optimistic and their challenges rise from navigating new feelings for the first time.

Monster wastes little of its runtime and patience must be on your side. Not due to any protracted scenes or testing performances — even with the film rewinding to shift perspective, things never feel repetitive, and everyone plays their parts well — but because you may feel the film is becoming indecisive. The worst case scenario is you enjoy one perspective of the main characters and wished it had stayed there the whole time. I share this sentiment from time to time, but still say this is a terrifically constructed film that balances three differing perspectives into a fulfilling and unified story.

Source: YouTube