Monday, January 8, 2024

Pig Brain

Monster (2023) - Kore-eda Screen Shot 2024-01-08 at 8.51.59 AM Screen Shot 2024-01-08 at 8.47.28 AM Screen Shot 2024-01-08 at 9.56.01 AM Screen Shot 2024-01-08 at 10.21.18 AM Screen Shot 2024-01-08 at 10.25.14 AM What seemingly starts out as a rashomon style abuse accusation in a school drama, Kore-eda's new film Monster is actually about something completely different. It's a massively poignant lovestory and an indictment of the bigotted society where people assume the worst in each other. It tells a elementary school kid Minato (Soya Kurokawa) being accused of bullying another child Yori (Hinata Hiiragi), and in turn punished by a young teacher Hori (Eita Nagayama). When Minato's single mom (Sakura Ando) notices about his son's odd behavior and sullenness, she complains to the principal of the school. But the principal and other teachers have already built an impenetrable wall to protect school's reputation and repeats the scripted response and apology to her. Enraged, mom finally gets Hori fired. But her son's odd behavior doesn't stop. On the eve of a tropical storm approaching the area, Minato disappears. His mom and Hori, start looking for him in the storm.

Then the film goes back to tell the same moments - some seemed insignificant and some pivotal before, from the kid's perspective and reveals innocent friendship and moving lovestory between two kids. Japan, like other countries (let's not kid ourselves, all countries are conservative) still maintain gender affirming activities in media and at home. Parents convince themselves that they can 'fix' their children if boys or girls are not behaving like boys or girls. We scrutinize everyone for their supposed roles in society and presume their shortfalls- Single mothers are drama queens, too protective of their children, Teachers should never visit bar hostesses, for example.

The society full of stereotyping and prejudices, children can't express what they feel, not only not to adults but to each other either. Rather they become cruel liars. It's not that they are evil. But the harm is done.

As is the case with Kore-eda films, he gets the most outstanding performances out of young actors. Both Kurokawa and Hiiragi shine in their demanding roles emoting in their uncertain stares and silences. As usual, Sakura Ando is a national treasure as a frustrated single mom and an unsuspecting role model. And both Nagayama and Yuko Tanaka (who plays the principal) are great in their supporting roles. The late Ryuichi Sakamoto's score adds to the film's greatness.