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Film: Monster (Japanese with English Subtitles)
Cast: Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurokawa
Director: Kore-eda Hirokazu
Rating: 3.5/5
Runtime: 127 mins

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film envisages different perspectives of behavior patterns exhibited by a so-called ‘problem’ child. It’s a superbly constructed narrative that explores the complexity in the use of words describing actions and how they have an imploding impact on the people they are targeted at.

The filmmaker underlines the need for understanding context when deliberating on a problem. In his film, a single unwed mother is forced to demand answers from the school when her son begins acting strangely. Her son, is a boy of few words and when questioned about his behavior, his words or specifically that of his friend, points blame square on the teacher.

The filmmaker dexterously manages to structure the film in such a way as to show us all perspectives – and how misunderstanding can invariably lead to tragic unforeseen circumstances.  The film shows us how armed with only a superficial understanding of a person or situation, context can be manufactured to fit a particular narrative. Here the individuals and the institution are put under the lens. The bureaucratic handling of a problem with high value being placed on appearance and propriety is shown to be detrimental in the long run.  

Mr Hori, the unassuming and kind teacher, is the man under suspicion…and all because of a casual, remark in class about what it is to be a man. The lack of understanding by adults and children’s understated ways of expressing themselves in words exaggerates the problem here. Confusion, misinterpretation, and familial and societal expectations compound it further.

Kore-eda`s film is deeply compassionate and empathy-driven. What happens when three or four perspectives develop from the same incident? Obviously, then no one can claim to know everything about it…right? Director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s latest feature is ambitiously told from multiple vantage points. It’s his cinematic homage to Akira Kurosawa’s “Roshomon” and is depicted in three separate but interconnected segments.  

The story focuses on the exploits of a rebellious pre-teen (Soya Kurokawa) seemingly prone to acting out. Kore-eda plays out the story in cryptic form. The boy’s overly protective widowed mother (Sakura Ando), his young middle school teacher Mr Hiro (Eita Nagayama), his aging, softspoken principal (Yuko Tanaka), and his effervescent best friend (Hinata Hiiragi), are the other characters in this puzzle that unravels as the film progresses.

As the many threads of the story come together we realise that no matter how much we may think we know about a particular situation, there’s always a chance that we haven’t got a complete picture. This is an eye-opener for everyone.

The film’s poor pacing and lazy editing don’t allow for a completely immersive experience. The performances are natural and help keep the narrative relatable and believable. This is Kore-eda’s most definitive, sensitive and intriguing work.

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