“I am not a monster.”

“I am not a monster.”

“If only some people can have it, that’s not happiness. That’s just nonsense. Happiness is something anyone can have.”

This gut-wrenching quote is extracted from one of the most emotional roller coaster rides of 2023, and that is the renowned Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s masterpiece, ‘Monster’. One with a faint heart is guaranteed to be left in a pool of tears and an aftermath of angry perceptions of the community we address as “society” after watching this award-winning creation. ‘Monster’ went on to win the Best Screenplay award and the Queer Palm award in the Cannes Film Festival of 2023, after winning the Audience Award of the Vancouver International Film Festival of 2023. This masterwork was also nominated for the Best Youth Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards of 2023.

‘Monster’, a thriller which truly captures deep human emotions, revolves around the lives of two young boys, Minato and Yori, and people closely associated with them, which include Minato’s mother, their class teacher, Mr. Hori, and the school’s principal, Mrs. Fushimi. The film is played out in a manner of three chapters of the same incident, from three different perspectives. This gave me a feeling of returning to a crime scene but with new clues and hints each time, making me see how almost everything in life is not what it seems to be from outer appearance. Rather, one must have access to all different points of view that reveal the truth of a certain situation. The film’s plot focuses on crucial issues in contemporary society, like coming of age, identity, homophobia, and psychological issues of various people. To showcase these prevailing concerns, the plot dives into the deepest and darkest emotions of the characters.

I found the title ‘Monster’ very intense and on par with the movie plot itself. While the term itself is repeated several times within the movie when the young boys almost brand themselves with it, because they do not conform to society’s expectations, the movie shifts its focus to how the term is applicable only to whomever made these boys believe that they are such, which is society. Kore-eda himself, during an interview revealed how the title and the term were meant for the society that cornered Minato and Yori into doubting and fearing their own identities.

The movie is hard to dive into without giving spoilers, but one can be assured that it is certainly a treasure of a creation despite its tragic turn of events and the ominous ending left for the viewers to analyze. The soundtrack was simply some light music on rare occasions, a defending and terrifying sound of trumpets which came on during peak situations, and silence. This combination of sounds made me feel like I was inside a human mind, where silence, light music and horrifying sounds go parallel with emotional rises and falls. The cinematography was soft and pleasing to the eye and almost whimsical when it came to the boys’ hideaway. Overall, a beautifully woven intricate pattern of human narrative.

A tear-jerking, heart-wrenching, mind-blowing, and twisty movie, ‘Monster’, in my personal opinion, a true work of art, where the silence and eyes spoke more than words ever could. Past all the dark emotional breakdowns the film guides us through, there is a light that reveals the brutal reality of the ‘monster’ we call society and shines on the innocent beauty of the young boys who strive to survive amongst it all, as a delicate daisy struggles to grow on a concrete pavement.

– Rtr. Sayuri Wijesinghe

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