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Movie Reviews

Monster ★★★★★



Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Cast: Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurokawa

Released: 29th March 2024

Should we even be surprised about Hirokazu Koreeda at this point? He continues to make terrific films one after the other, especially if you’ve seen his previous titles, such as Shoplifters, Broker and Like Father, Like Son. Koreeda has returned with a new feature titled Monster, and it’s yet again another brilliant and worthy addition to his filmography. After directing two movies outside Japan, he finally returned to his homeland. He takes on the terrific script by Yuji Sakamoto, which won the Best Screenplay award during this year’s Cannes Film Festival. If you have never seen one of his films, it’s time to realise what you’ve been missing this whole time.

Going into Monster cold without knowing much about the premise is highly recommended. We’ll summarise it as vaguely as possible if you need more details. A young boy named Minato (Sōya Kurokawa) starts behaving strangely at home and school, making his mother (Sakura Andō) deeply worried about him. As the story goes on, you see more things unfold through other people’s perspectives. If this is your first Koreeda film, you’re in for an emotional and heartbreaking yet beautiful tale about friendship and humanity. You’ll also understand why they made Monster the film’s title.

One of Koreeda’s greatest strengths as a filmmaker is to showcase the cast’s amazing acting. He has excellent direction on how he wants his actors to convey strong emotions and make the audience feel for them. They all stand out in their way, and you have to give special praise to Sakamoto’s screenplay, which provides many profound layers through his well-developed characters. You get to see Minato’s story arc expand the most through the eyes of others. You completely understand where they’re all coming from. No one ever gets sidelined when it’s their side of the narrative being told on screen, especially when we’re starting to discover the truth of the overall storyline. Humans are flawed and make mistakes. Koreeda explores that theme exceptionally well while adding nuance throughout.

While the storytelling and acting are top-notch, as you would expect in a Koreeda film, it’s important to mention the incredible camerawork from cinematographer Ryûto Kondô. This is a stunning feature from beginning to end while ensuring each shot finds innovative ways to enhance the emotional core of both the premise and the characters. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s musical score is outstanding, another crucial element that adds great depth to the story. There are some pacing issues here and there, but these are minor nitpicks that won’t compromise the film. The director asks the audience to be patient when the climax is guaranteed to leave everyone in the auditorium speechless and heartbroken.

Monster is simply fantastic. Koreeda is a genuinely gifted filmmaker who knows how to fully utilise the art of cinema to connect people on a personal and emotional level. It’s not only one of the best films of 2023; it’s a masterclass in storytelling.

Steven Lee has always been passionate about movies. He also writes for Short Ends, Montreal Rampage, That Moment In and Borrowing Tape.

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