Time: 103 minutes
Age Rating: Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Julianne Nicholson as “Doctora” Sara Watson
Moisés Arias as Bigfoot
Sofía Buenaventura as Rambo
Julian Giraldo as Wolf
Karen Quintero as Lady
Laura Castrillón as Swede
Deiby Rueda as Smurf
Esneider Castro as Boom Boom
Paul Cubides as Dog
Wilson Salazar as The Messenger
Director: Alejandro Landes
On a faraway mountaintop, eight teenaged guerillas with guns watch over a hostage (Julianne Nicholson) and a conscripted milk cow. Playing games and initiating cult-like rituals, the children run amok in the jungle and disaster strikes when the hostage tries to escape.
Although I didn’t know a whole lot about Monos outside of the premise, I knew that some people really liked it, so I put it on my list of 2019 movies to check out. While I’m not sure that I’d call it a great film and I have a number of issues with it, there’s definitely a lot of praiseworthy parts to it, from the directing to the acting.
Monos isn’t an easy movie to watch by any means. It’s fittingly disturbing and grim given the subject matter, and you feel rather uncomfortable throughout. The movie doesn’t provide any context to the events, for the war, the child soldiers and why they are doing what they are doing. That wasn’t such a problem for me, the ambiguity if anything worked well for the movie, you know as little about the background of everything as the teenager soldiers. That’s not to say I don’t have some issues with the movie itself. Even though the movie is an hour and 40 minutes long, it feels very drawn out. It is an incredibly slow movie with not a lot happening, sometimes it was for its benefit, but a lot of time it just dragged out the runtime. While I still wasn’t in love with it or anything, it does pick up towards the second half. There was also something bugging me for a while and I couldn’t figure out what it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s how distant it all felt. Now I get that the cold take on the story somewhat works, but without any real emotional attachment, I just felt like there was something missing. We don’t really have a single character that we could anchor ourselves to, not the main hostage character, and not to really any of the child characters. I guess there’s Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura), who you can latch onto most by far, but even then there isn’t really much to her, and she’s not even focused on a whole lot. It doesn’t help that there’s a real lack of characterisation, you get that each of them are different and you get small bits of differences between them, but it wasn’t quite enough. Thinking back on it, there’s only a few characters with distinct things I remembered about them, the rest I barely remembered at all. I wasn’t expecting all of them to be fully fleshed out characters, but I hoped for more. As for the potential similarities from this story to Lord of the Flies, I’m not familiar with the story so I can’t comment on them.
The acting all around was pretty great, from the hostage played by Julianne Nicholson, to the cast who play the kids. They all felt very believable in their respective roles. Moises Arias was a standout amongst the kids characters though.
Monos is worth seeing for the direction from Alejandro Landes alone. It’s visually stunning, with such a beautiful look to it. While it looks great throughout, the film really gets to shine in the second half, when it generally takes place at a rainforest. Another stand out is the music by Mica Levi, giving it an otherworldly and haunting feel to it. Levi also made the score for Under the Skin, so you can imagine what it’s like if you’ve seen that movie. The atmosphere was also handled quite well, and all of it felt grimly real.
Monos isn’t for everyone, however it is well made, despite some narrative issues that I had. I think there are some issues that hold me back from liking it more. I’d say that maybe I’d like it more on a rewatch, but I don’t particularly have any desire to watch it again. Still, if you saw the premise and wanted to try it out for yourself, give it a watch if you think you’ll like it.