Review: ‘Monster’ – Hirokazu Kore-eda’s bittersweet drama is an unforgettable cinematic experience

In 2018, the world got to know about Hirokazu Kore-eda’s directing prowess when Shoplifters was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars. Meanwhile, in 2022, the director once again showed his impeccable skills with Broker. Since then, avid movie watchers have been waiting for the filmmaker to come forward with a worthy follow-up, and Kore-eda didn’t disappoint. His highly anticipated follow-up, Monster, sees him returning to the director’s chair, and the result is another sensational piece of cinema.

From the very first frame of Monster, you are drawn into the fascinating world stitched by Kore-eda and writer Yuji Sakamoto. However, if viewers expect to understand what’s happening on the screen in the first 10 or 40 minutes, they will be surprised. The filmmaker didn’t leave a stone unturned to give us a masterclass in filmmaking, but he also made sure that viewers are at the edge of their seats while looking for several different answers.

The story of Monster

The story follows different characters, each with a different story to tell. When Saori (Sakura Ando) sees her son Minato (Soya Kurokawa) behaving unusually, she finally gets the courage to confront him. At first, Minato stays away from telling the truth. Eventually, he tells his mother about an incident that took place at school. The school apologizes for the incident but isn’t ready to give proper answers to a mother who is anxious about her son’s behavior. 

Ando’s Saori gets really frustrated when she doesn’t get appropriate answers from his son and the school. The teacher involved in the incident bizarrely experiences some of the most challenging situations in his life when he tries to tell everyone what happened. Meanwhile, Minato tries hard in the classroom to hold a secret that might change his life altogether.

Effortless shifts through genres

The most beautiful part of Monster is how it effortlessly shifts genres. The drama film can be basically divided into three parts: a mystery, a character sketch, and a soul-stirring child drama. Every part is different from one another and is equally important for the film’s storytelling. Going into the movie, viewers can speculate about the story and what kind of film it will be. But Kore-eda knew what he was doing while telling a story with so many layers, and he slowly peeled them away to make everyone realize that this was not what they expected from this film.

Some of the reactions seemed skeptical about Monster’s duration, which is over two hours long. However, two hours fly by when the movie starts to take you into a mysterious and emotionally wrecking universe. It is a movie about secrets and how you manage to hold on to them. Of course, we are not going to spoil your viewing experience by talking about those secrets, but one thing that we can tell you is that your perspectives will change whenever you meet a character that is essential to the story. So, even if you think you understand what the character is going through, Kore-eda throws some new information that leaves you stranded and starts again. That’s how Monster keeps you engaged and doesn’t skip a beat.

Stellar performances in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Monster

Apart from the amazing story, the performances in Monster make this movie such a stellar watch. Ando plays the role of Saori, a single mother, with precision and gives a new take on the life of a single mother. She is not living in misery or thinking how her life will move forward. She is full of love and believes her life is a blessing. Ando is brilliant in her role. 

Meanwhile, Eita Nagayama as Hori is excellent. The way he embodies the character and shows his vulnerability on the screen is truly magnificent.

However, the movie’s real stars are Soya Kurokawa as Minato and Hinata Hiiragi as Yori. Both the child actors are breathtakingly awesome in their respective characters, and you are in awe of them whenever they appear on screen. Kurokawa plays his character subtly and makes us realize how stressed he is while holding a life-altering secret. Meanwhile, Hiiragi leaves a lasting impression on our minds with a superlative performance as Yori. Even at such a young age, both the actors have beautifully shown life’s complications and how they can affect even kids.

Final thoughts on Monster

The writing of Monster is impeccable, and even when the movie finally reveals what’s happening, it doesn’t lose its gentle approach. The movie’s final minutes are impactful and show the depth of Minato’s emotions. When the movie ends, you are left speechless and think about how life is so unpredictable and, unfortunately, we stop caring about what we feel because of society. The film addresses that aspect in a way that’s really moving.

Masterfully crafted, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Monster immerses you in its characters’ traumatic journey, blurring the lines between performers and real people, making it an unforgettable cinematic experience. Devastating, yet profoundly compassionate.

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Monster is now in theaters

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film, Monster, is now playing in theaters across the US. The film will be released digitally on February 6, 2024.

Have you watched Monster yet? What did you think of the movie? Join the conversation by leaving a comment or by tagging us on X (formerly Twitter) @MoviesWeTexted.

If you’re interested in more reviews of international movies, we’ve got you covered. Check out Russell Miller’s recent review of the Italian film The Eight Mountains.