Home » Monster

The Japanese juvie drama “Monster” initially appears to be a tragedy about an errant or dangerous child. The little things that stand out to Minato Mugino’s mother, always single mom Saori (Sakura Ando), are the new hair cut and a cut over his right ear. Such things may be read as signs of trouble like when Minato asks his mum if you would still be human if he got a pig brain transplant. Another phrase that keeps coming back in the film like slow-breaking raincloud is “Who’s the monster?”.

Saori is sure that something is not right with her son, so she keep on bugging him until finally he confesses that his home room teacher Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama) had physically assaulted him. Saori has heard enough and seen enough so she goes after Hori and apparently, Hori’s insincere apologies and those by the school’s reserved principal Makiko Fushimi (Yuko Tanaka) confirm her reading of events.

This synopsis then transitions to the perspective of Hori who was written by Yuji Sakamoto, a celebrated TV writer. As can be expected, Minato did not tell his mother everything about what happened. Some bullies from school were also involved as well as Yori Hoshikawa (Hinata Hiiragi), and also Yori’s father (Shido Nakamura). There are clearly other reasons behind Principal Fushimi’s apparent disinterest and Mr. Hori’s defensive instability but they do not add up completely to make an exact picture of any character involving them both as we come to realize more about what is really happening between Minato and Yori—two close friends in their own private world.

Based on this short synopsis, you might imagine that “Monster” is a sort of middle school “Mystic River” that inevitably casts a very broad sort of blame on yet another small community of blinkered loners. Happily, however, “Monster” is a display for director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s dramatic irony and revelatory twists, as well as his gift for bringing out the best in his actors, particularly among the younger members of the cast. In order to fit this story better, Kore-eda (“Broker,” “Nobody Knows”) goes with impressionistic, revealing details about Minato and Saori as well as Fushimi and Hori.

Nevertheless, “Monster” is not actually about who really did what or why. A lot is explained and a few are implicated but not everything and not everyone. Saori does not get pigeonholed as a villain after realizing that Hori and Fushimi were wronged by her ignorance. And besides making a kind speech at the end, Fushimi’s unyielding response to Saori’s desperate questions also doesn’t look much better in hindsight after we’ve gotten to know her better.

A nested doll narrative like that of “Monster” seems to invite viewers to judge or maybe even assume the impossible emotional burden together with these characters. Who could have known or seen really everything that happened? Why didn’t everybody react more appropriately? However, what is most striking about this last film by Kore-eda is his thorough attention towards mood and believable subjective reality in it.

As usual with Kore-eda, a question like “Who’s the monster” is misleading since, as we see, there’s nothing more or less real about Minato, Yori or their teacher once we learn know what they did and where they are from. Instead, “Monster” ties together a group of outsiders not through shared experiences but rather by their search for meaning in how they look upon and take care of each other. It’s amazing to see someone complex like Hori apparently shown up as an unfeeling pervert in his first scene, such as when he blows his nose or makes sneering comments about Saori, only to be made more layered than completely absolved or dismissed later on.

“Monster” is also a typical Kore-eda movie in that it ultimately focuses on the ephemeral world of two young children living under the gigantic shadow cast by adult caretakers. Just listen to this sunny and melancholic piano synthesizer score which speaks volumes about what kind of movie this is; it combines two brand new songs with some older ones composed by recently departed musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Sakamoto’s music revolves and throbs with an understated and his own term “esoteric” complexity. His playing is so intimate without slipping into sappy formulas or clichés that beautifully conveys the mutual loneliness of Minato and his kinship. The mood music can easily be taken for granted in a film where story dominates most. (“Monster” won the Best Screenplay award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival)

Still though, Sakamoto’s music matches Kore-eda’s careful direction well enough while remaining concerned generally about people who usually find themselves at odds with themselves behind closed doors before sometimes seeing beyond their companionship. It’s too bad they will never collaborate again; however it is nice to watch (and hear) their sole effort as well.

Watch free movies on Fmovies

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top