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Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s peels away layers of mystery, emotion and heartfelt insight into the human condition in the touching Monster, which ranks among the Japanese master’s very best work.

Time and time again Hirokazu Kore-Eda wrings gallons of emotion from the most intimate of stories and he does so again in Monster, this time adding a Rashomon-like narrative framework to great effect.

The movie starts off with a widowed mother who confronts a teacher she suspects of bullying her son but as the story unfolds, more perspectives are revealed, which shed a whole new light on scenes you have seen before.

Peeling away the truth, like layers of an onion, is part of what makes Monster such a satisfying experience, but like said onion it's the tears you'll shed for the heartbreakingly told bond between the two young protagonists that you'll remember the longest.

The movie is blessed with remarkable perfomances by the teenage actors, who you can instantly relate to and whose plight in the film's third act never gets cloying or heavy-handed. Adding to that gentle humanity are Kore-Eda's trademark, better than ever, nuanced imagery and a wonderful soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto, the final one he completed before his death.

In theme and message Monster might remind you of last year's Close but I'd argue that Kore-Eda does far more justice to his life-affirming coming-of-age gem than that manipulative Belgian awards darling ever did.

release: 2023

director: Hirokazu Kore-Eda

starring: Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurokawa, Hinata Hiiragi


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