Kore-eda Hirokazu goes the full Rashomon in his latest film, MONSTER.

The film follows Minato (Soya Kurokawa), a schoolboy who starts to behave strangely, his widowed mother (Sakura Ando) feels that there is something wrong at school. Minato dobs on a teacher, (Eita Nagayama), he alleges called him pig’s brain so she storms into the school demanding to know what’s going on. The staff convene a meeting to placate the parent, the faculty ‘politeness to a fault’, and to censure the teacher. But as the story unfolds through the eyes of mother, teacher and child, a tortured truth gradually emerges.

MONSTER begins well and one hopes that we are getting another Hirokazu masterpiece like Shoplifters with its clutch of fractured families and reconstituted substitutes. But its fractured framing of the stories fumbles the pace and produces uneven results.

Screenwriter Yuji Sakamoto is perhaps a bit too wordy and disjointed in structure and fights against fluency.

Another Sakamoto regular, composer Ryuichi brings a much needed through line with a musical score that is beautiful. Sadly, this is the last score Sakamoto wrote before his death last year. It is sure to be an enduring part of his legacy.

There’s something in the zeitgeist at the moment in local movie releases, MONSTER having a redolence to The Teachers Lounge currently playing in cinemas. Certainly MONSTER is an interesting examination of teaching, the pitfalls and rewards, the perception of them by parents and the reciprocal view of teachers towards parents.

Sakura Ando, one of the shining ensemble of Shoplifters, again shows what a star she is as the fierce, fiery yet frustrated mother struggling with single parenthood, simultaneously protective and perplexed by her son. She is the enduring and endearing beating heart of this film, flawed but not false, flummoxed but persistent, emblematic of committed parenthood, with all the added strains of doing it solo.


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