Review of the film “Monster” – a complex exploration of contemporary ethics and social customs by director Hirokazu Kore-eda.

Estimated read time 3 min read


Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda challenges viewers with a complex and intricate family drama that explores themes of bullying, homophobia, dysfunctional family dynamics, and the dangers of uncritically respecting flawed authority and spreading rumors on social media. Collaborating with screenwriter Yûji Sakamoto and the late composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kore-eda adds layers of nuance and meaning to the story with his poignant and melancholic piano score. The film often presents scenes of drama and tension, accompanied by the score, hinting that the true meaning of these scenes has yet to be revealed. Instead of providing easy answers, Monster repeatedly revisits the same events from different perspectives, raising even more questions. While this storytelling technique may lead to a satisfying narrative twist in other films, it only serves to add further complexity and mystery to Monster.

The story commences with a building on fire, an intense blaze against the dark sky, which serves as a convenient starting point when the events are retold. The building was previously a questionable hostess-bar, and there is a scandalous rumor circulating that local schoolteacher, Mr. Hori (played by Eita Nagayami), was a patron. Single mother Saori (played by Sakura Ando) has heard these whispers and may already have a negative view of the man; her son Minato (played by Soya Kurokawa) comes home from school claiming that Mr. Hori insulted him with a strange phrase comparing him to a “pig brain” (or did Minato hear that phrase somewhere else?), and the teacher also allegedly hit him.

Angry Saori bursts into the principal’s office where the grieving Yûko Tanaka is already present. She demands an explanation for her grandson’s death, but the school tries to appease her with a formal and legalistic apology, accompanied by bows from Hori and his colleagues. The insincere and irrelevant nature of the event only angers Saori further. However, when Hori confesses that Minato was bullying a sensitive and imaginative classmate, Eri (Hinata Hiiragi), his composure breaks and he mumbles the truth.

The statement is initially supported but later contradicted through flashbacks and changes in perspective that reveal various happenings in the classroom. We gain more insight into the bond between the boys, formed at their secret location, an abandoned railway carriage in the nearby city wilderness, which may have a romanticized air to it. The children display a hidden ability for maliciousness, aggression, and self-harm, causing the adults to live in fear. Meanwhile, the teachers are attempting to conceal a situation that could harm their professional standing. The parent involved is seeking to uncover and expose an unbelievable and unsettling reality.

The film Monster is more than meets the eye; it reveals deeper truths by unraveling distractions and provides a sense of hope instead of hopelessness. The actors, Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayami, and the boys, deliver performances that are honest and sincere. The plot may seem overly complicated with a barrage of unknowns, but ultimately, the film is a powerful statement of morality and compassion.


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