Monster review: Picturesque color palettes and a hidden narrative that takes you by surprise!

Aishwarya Srinivasan
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Monster review

Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival: In our Monster review, we talk about how the film peels different layers of perspective until we reach the final conclusion!

Monster review: They say every story has two sides. I beg to differ after watching this film, as every story can have a plethora of different perspectives. Because all of us look at life with a very different lens, someone else might not pick what you’re seeing and vice versa. This pretty much sums up the various different tricky timelines in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Monster. The various timelines play a very important role in the kind of storytelling approach the director chooses.

The film starts with a burning ‘hostess bar’ where men go to seek female company when they’re lonely. But this same scene is shown in three different perspectives until you finally realize who really set the place on fire and why. The movie first focuses on Saori (Ando Sakura), a single mother’s perspective who is rather troubled by the way her son, Minato (Kurokawa Soya) has been acting lately. She blames his school teacher Mr. Hori (Nagayama Eita), as she is convinced he is mistreating her son at school. The second perspective is Mr Hori’s. He is not at all the man Saori thinks he is. In fact, he believes Minato is bullying everyone at school. Up until these two timelines, you feel confused as it doesn’t really match up or sometimes even make sense. This is when Minato’s perspective comes into play and takes you by surprise. Minato has a wholesome and endearing relationship with his fellow classmate Yori (Hiiragi Hinata), and the two pre-teens realize very early on they have feelings for each other. Yori always knew his sexuality; it was Minato who came to terms with his own during his meetings at the secret hideout spot with Yori. 

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The film starts with the notion of a dark theme about mental illness, bullying, or something ghostly, but it actually turns out to be a beautiful story about accepting who you are. The film tries to tell us how we’re ready to jump to false conclusions with the first two timelines and how we’re first in line to believe everything that’s being spoon-fed to us instead of actually looking into the nuances of it. Minato and Yori are put through difficult situations throughout the film, and each time, as an audience, you will always think the worst is about to happen. In one of the scenes where there’s a landslide due to a typhoon, Saori and Mr. Hori are helplessly looking for Minato until the scene is cut abruptly on a cliffhanger. But later, in Minato’s perspective, we see the two kids somehow making their way out of the tunnel into bright sunshine. It tells you that you will find light in the darkest times. A simple message reaches you in the most complex way and leaves you teary-eyed. 

Yori is the heart of the film for me. He was a victim of an abusive, homophobic father who made derogatory statements like ‘you have a pig’s brain’. Which is one of the first lines in the film said by Minato, and we later find that Yori’s father is the origin of it. He believes that his son is a ‘Monster’ for being queer. Throughout the film, we too feel either Yori or Minato is a monster for creating this disastrous series of events, but both of them are anything but a monster! Yori never lets anything break his optimism toward life; he doesn’t absorb his father’s bitterness at all. He has a big heart; he is a compassionate and light-hearted element that adds humor to this film at times. Hiiragi Hinata plays the character adorably and takes you on this crazy journey along with him. 

From the first frame to the last, there’s not a single shade of color that’s not used. It pulls you in either with the aesthetic landscapes of Japan or the colorful costumes the characters wear. The colors, in fact, bring out the mood of the scene. And then there’s the late Ryuichi Sakamoto’s last composition, which builds the tension in scenes or fills the silences beautifully. 

Overall, Monster is a story that you’ll have preconceived notions about but come out surprised because of the sheer unpredictability of it. It gives you a lesson on so many ongoing social issues while keeping the coming-of-age factor at the core of it all.

Monster had its Indian premiere at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival this year!

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