Monster Blu-ray Review

  • Director ‏ : ‎ Hirokazu Kore-eda
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurokawa, Hinata Hiiragi, Yuko Tanaka
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ Well Go Usa
  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
  • Country of Origin ‏ : ‎ USA
  • Number of discs ‏ : ‎ 1
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Widescreen
  • Run time ‏ : ‎ 2 hours and 6 minutes
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ April 9, 2024

        Continuing the tradition of filmmakers like Yasujirô Ozu, acclaimed Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu has a subtle and understated approach to storytelling, even with narratives that could easily slip into melodrama. At the heart of every Hirokazu film is an empathetic presentation of the human experience, regardless of whether the story is focused on a universally relatable situation or something extraordinary, like the premise of Like Father, Like Son (2013). Even when the narrative stretches what is believable, somehow Hirokazu manages to make it feel like a slice of life with the realism captured by his execution.


        In addition to the restraint and dedication to realism likely to be associated with Ozu, Hirokazu’s Monster has a narrative structure similar to an iconic film from another of Japan’s legendary filmmakers, Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) tells the story of an event from multiple different perspectives to show shifting views of the truth. While Monster also presents events from three different perspectives, this is to slowly reveal the truth rather than offer up varying sides. Only by seeing events from each character is the audience able to see the full picture with clarity.


        The first view is from single mother Saori Mugino (Sakura Andō), who suddenly becomes concerned when her son Minato (Sōya Kurokawa) begin behaving strangely. When Minato comes home from school with injuries and missing one of his shoes, Saori becomes concerned he is being bullied and seeks answers at his school. Despite an apathetic response from the school principal (Yūko Tanaka), Saori is convinced that Minato’s homeroom teacher, Michitoshi Hori (Eita Nagayama), may have been abusive to her son. When Hori claims Minato is actually bullying another young boy named Yori Hoshikawa (Hinata Hiiragi), the film shifts to his perspective and slowly reveals more clues to the mystery about the young boy’s change in behavior. However, it isn’t until the third act from Minato’s perspective that the truth becomes clear.


        The power in Hirokazu’s film doesn’t come from big dramatic moments, though there are a few of those sprinkled throughout the narrative. Instead, it is the subtle performances the filmmaker elicits from his cast, especially the younger ones, which leaves a lasting memory. The realism of human interactions has been a consistent strength of Hirokazu as a filmmaker, and Monster serves as confirmation of this fact.


        The Blu-ray release of Monster is surprisingly sparse considering the critical acclaim the film has received. There are no special features beyond a trailer and optional English language track (though purists will know to watch the film with subtitles). Even the high definition presentation is somewhat unnecessary for this film, but serves as the best reason to purchase the Blu-ray.


Entertainment Value: 7.5/10

Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10

Historical Significance:  7/10

Special Features: 1/10

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