Straight from Cannes where its intricately composed script was deservedly awarded, Kore-eda Hirokazu’s latest is a deeply affecting and morally complex drama told from multiple perspectives.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
“The best of Kore-eda Hirokazu’s films achieve a rare quality: a sublime everydayness, in which simple matters of life take on breathtaking, poetic shape ... His new film, Monster, initially seems to be a simple, issue-driven movie designed to yank at heartstrings. Ando Sakura, so memorable in Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or-winning Shoplifters, plays Saori, a dry cleaner in a small Japanese city whose son, tweenage Minato (Kurokawa Soya), is having some mental health difficulties. He’s quiet and moody at home, he’s acting out at school, and in one frightening instance he seems to have a propensity for self-harm.
Kore-eda sets this all up in such a way that we, the perhaps slightly jaded audience, assume we know what’s coming. The film will chronicle Saori’s struggle to reach her son, and his journey toward betterment. Saori’s husband has died at some indefinite point in the past, so it seems that grief will come to bear on this process of understanding and healing. But then Sakamoto Yuji’s script leads us in unexpected directions … The film is essentially concerned with how a secret, closely held by private fear and societal demand, can affect far more people than just the one keeping it…
Scoring all this are compositions by the late Ryuichi Sakamoto, billows of pensive, poignant music that suggest both ebb and flow, growth and retreat. Sakamoto’s melodies combine with Kore-eda’s lush images—summery greens and pale blues, alternately crisp and bleary—to dazzling effect, creating a picture of life in all its hushed beauty, its gnawing ache. One comes to [Cannes] in search of at least one good cry, which Monster provides generously and without cynical manipulation. The film, at once warmly exuberant and carefully restrained, is … built with the compassion and inventiveness so signature to its creator.” —Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair