Monos (2019)

Director: Alejandro Landes
Writer: Alejandro Landes, Alexis Dos Santos
Cast: Sofia Buenaventura, Julián Giraldo, Karen Quintero, Laura Castrillón, Deiby Rueda, Paul Cubides, Sneider Castro, Moises Arias, Julianne Nicholson
Seen on: 11.11.2019

On top of a mountain, a group of teenagers train as soldiers, militia, visited only rarely by their commanding officer who leaves them with a cow and an abductee (Julianne Nicholson) to watch over. Their days are filled with training and exercise, their nights are more rambunctious. But it remains to be seen if their group can make it through all challenges.

Monos is visually stunning and interesting, but it didn’t develop quite the hypnotic quality for me that it aimed for and that would have been necessary for me to really get into it. Maybe it just caught me on the wrong day.

The film poster showing a great swirl of turquoise clouds, with a small horse and rider silhouetted against it.

Monos takes on a big theme – the way war and cruelty erode our sense of humanity, and how this goes doubly for the vulnerable like children. It’s a very bleak, brutal film that tells one part of the story and it tells it well. But on the other hand, it’s also a reductory take, because even under the worst circumstances, there are those that somehow manage to keep their humanity and to use it for good. The film has practically no room for that part of the story, although there are moments of softness here and there that I would have loved to see explored a little more.

But that’s not the film we got. Nevertheless I can see the potential in Monos to work, if you’re able to let yourself fall into this world – a world you’re pushed into without context or explanations and that gets an increasingly nightmareish quality. Unfortunately, I wasn’t drawn into it as much as would have been needed for it to really work.

A teenager with an automatic weapon standing on a mountain top overlooking the cloud cover, silhouetted against the sky.

That being said, the film is a visual feast. The gorgeous cinematography by Jasper Wolf was absolutely breathtaking, be it on the mountaintop or in the jungle (though particularly the former) and made me very glad that I not only caught it in the cinema, but in the cinema with the biggest screen in Vienna (I think. It’s at least among the biggest).

Still, the film just didn’t hit me as it should have, making it feel too long and a little hollow. Whatever the reason for that may be, it left me underwhelmed in the end.

A group of teenagers standing in a military position in a line, being inspected.

Summarizing: For the visuals it’s an absolute yes, for everything else more of a meh.

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