Monster Movie Review
A boy is being bullied by his teacher… or is he? That’s the question at the middle of the Japanese drama Monster, which begins simply enough but demonstrates the power of perspective as the situation unfolds.
From director Kore-eda Hirokazu, who made the excellent Shoplifters, Monster runs through the same events and their aftermath three times, through the lens of three different individuals: the mother, the teacher, and then the boy. It’s a fascinating experiment that explains how emotion, partial facts, and motivations can color reality.
The experiment doesn’t fully work, even all the elements are there. The performances are strong throughout–Sakura Ando and Eita-Nagayama especially–and Hirokazu crafts his story with precision and care. Yet the movie lacks the power and intensity you can tell Hirokazu was shooting for; the material never elevates to its potential.
Hirokazu, working from a screenplay by Yûji Sakamoto, struggles to bring things home. While the movie has some big reveals, the whole thing gets muddled with a weird climax involving a train tunnel, a rainstorm, and a mudslide; Monster never needed to go this route. Worse, it distracts from the emotional core of the story.
A worthwhile but only semi-impactful exploration of varying perspectives, Monster has plenty to like but not enough to love.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.