Cannes 2023 Screening Notes: Monster's Melancholy is Leavened by Flourishes of Warmth

Veteran Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda delves into many tragedies at once with his film
Cannes 2023: Monster
Cannes 2023: Monster

The main competition section in Cannes is a familiar space for Japanese maestro Hirokazu Kore-Eda. Monster is his seventh film to be selected.  His 2018 competition entry Shoplifters won the Palme d’Or and also an Oscar nomination. Monster is the first Japanese-language film Kore-eda has directed since Shoplifters.  With Monster, Kore-eda, working with writer Sakamoto Yuji, creates a human drama which delves into fractured families, isolation, loss, guilt and grief. The film begins as the story of a single mother Saori (played by a terrific Ando Sakura) whose young son seems to be in some sort of trouble at school.  Minato (Soya Kurokawa, also superb) doesn’t communicate much but his behavior is deeply unsettling – at one point, like Christine in Lady Bird, he flings himself out of a moving car. Minato says he has been hit by his teacher.  Saori demands an explanation from his school but all she gets are apologies. Then slowly, the story shifts focus, Rashomon-style, to the teacher Hori (Nagayama Eita) and to Minato’s good friend Yori (Hiiragi Hinata).  Various truths and untruths are revealed.  What transpires is tender and heartbreaking but also hopeful. The film echoes Lukas Dhont’s gutting Close, also about the friendship between two boys.  But the melancholy is leavened by flourishes of warmth. The monster is around and within but human connection is eventually what will save us. Monster is skillfully structured. With delicacy and compassion, Kore-eda delves into many tragedies at once. There is one involving a grandchild guaranteed to haunt you.

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