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J.A.A. Purves

Monsters and Men (2018)

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From Richard Lawson at Vanity Fair:
“This is not an intense annals-of-power thriller, though. It’s instead a quiet look at a personal moral quandary that has no easy answers, a conflict Green illustrates with sensitivity. Though all three sections of the film have didactic bits when big ideas are plainly stated, the bulk of Monsters and Men renders huge issues with a fluid understatement. But that disarming pensiveness and interiority doesn’t forget the anger and sadness of the story—instead, it somehow heightens it, affording these characters a grounded texture that casts their struggles in a piercingly humane light ...

The film is gorgeously staged, cinematographer Patrick Scola’s camera gliding and reeling, Kris Bowers’s dreamy score playing as both plaint and prayer. The performances are uniformly gripping, with Ramos, Washington, and Harrison Jr. the standouts, if only because they have the most to do. (Beharie remains as welcome here—sharp, natural, incisive—as she is in everything. Please put her in everything?)

There’s an argument to be made that Monsters and Men is too tasteful for such seismically important, infuriating topics; perhaps the film dulls its stakes with all its lilting aesthetics. As I see it, though, Green’s melancholy reserve articulates something vital and heartbreaking. Alongside all the clamor and fury of this necessary outrage, there is also the everyday ache of these lives, infected and shaped by racism and its destructive ends, yet still possessed of precious everyday joys, hard won and tenuous as they might be.”

 

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