Monster | Fresh Takes

Fresh takes and film reviews from new voices in film.

Alice, Ethan, Olivia & Sara

01 Mar 24

Fresh Takes is a space for the latest generation of film lovers to share their views and opinions on some of the great films we are showing at Picturehouse cinemas. 

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Here are some Fresh Takes on Monster, a timely tale of family and false impressions, boldly told from three different perspectives and helmed by acclaimed director Hirokazu Kore-eda.

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Olivia Mary Jordan, 23

Olivia is a freelance writer and producer based in London, who loves nothing more for ultimate comfort and joy than a cosy trip to the cinema. Find her writing at 

Olivia says...

Hirokazu Kore-eda's Monster received a six-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. Having won the Palme d'Or back in 2018 for Shoplifters, an ovation would be a foregone conclusion for such an acclaimed director – if Monster hadn't been such a serious detour from convention, that is. Not since his debut has Kore-eda directed a screenplay penned by someone other than himself. But Yuji Sakamoto's script is so saturated with feeling that, as the credits rolled, I understood quite clearly why Kore-eda was motivated enough to disregard the old adage, 'If it ain't broke…'

Monster follows Saori, her troubled son Minato, his classmate Yori, and their school teacher Mr Hori, who Minato accuses of violence. Through the 'Rashomon effect', a storytelling method using contradictory portrayals of the same occurrences, we are shown events from the perspectives of the mother, the teacher, and the children. Pulling on a thread only uncovers further threads, and as the retellings progress, each with slight (but seismic) individual misjudgements, we are given information which both reveals and conceals the 'truth'.

Though thematically rich enough to be spoiled for choice, it is the sympathetic depiction of the children's inner lives which stands out. Both are heavy with their own complexity, yet relentlessly hopeful. As for who the 'monster' of the title is? I suggest you catch a screening at your local Picturehouse to find out!

Top Tip: keep an ear out for the score, the last by late Oscar-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose dissonant piano chords contradict the action strikingly.

Alice, 25

Alice is a London based Graphic Designer and Letterboxd addict.

Alice says...

Monster begins with a building engulfed in flames, a terrible and beautiful image and the focal point of the film, revisited twice more during its course. Its reappearance signifies a kind of striking of the record, the closing of one account and the beginning of another. The story that follows it is told from three vantages: that of a mother who believes her son is being mistreated by his teacher, the teacher implicated, then the boy. We have questions that we expect the film to answer: who caused the fire, and was it on purpose? Who is lying to us, and who should we blame? Yet the more that is revealed, the further we get from easy answers. Gradually one realises that perhaps it is the questions that are wrong.

Like Kore-eda's other films, this one is gently philosophical, and illustrates, in an understated sort of way, the goodness of people. It triumphs in finer details, which it uses to complicate our assumptions about the characters and their feelings towards each other. What strikes me the most about Monster is how syrupy and clichéd it could easily have felt. That it manages not to is in part because it neither preaches at you nor spells anything out. It simply makes a patient and determined bid for empathy – asking nothing of the watcher that it does not give them in return.

Sara Quattrocchi Febles, 23

Sara is an arts and culture writer from Spain and Italy who currently lives in London. She has a monthly newsletter called Por Cierto where she writes about contemporary global culture through the lens of film, photography, and art. Find her on Instagram at @saraqf_.

Sara says...

From the first minutes of watching Monster, it would be easy to assume that it's about the complex relationship between a single mother, Saori, and her troubled son, Minato. We see them coping with the passing of Minato's father as they celebrate his birthday in front of a shrine. We see Saori visiting Minato's elementary school to complain about how her son has been supposedly mistreated by his teacher, Hori. It's easy to feel frustrated, as no one seems to take her seriously in a society that judges single mothers.

As more minutes pass and more characters are introduced, Saori's perspective is no longer in the foreground – we slowly realise that Monster isn't about her. Director Hirokazu Kore-eda brings more protagonists into the story, seamlessly interweaving the different points of view of each character – the teacher, the school's principal, Minato's classmate Yori, and Minato himself – and making us shift our blame from character to character as we wonder exactly why Minato may be so troubled.

As each perspective is revealed, we slowly begin to realise how easily the characters blame those around them and believe the rumours they're told. We slowly begin feeling uncomfortable as we realise that we have started to believe these rumours, too. Monster boldly questions our own complicity in naively believing what we're told – leaving us to ask ourselves who the responsibility really lies with.

Ethan, 24

Ethan currently works in games development and in his spare time finds himself at the movies at least once a week (if not more.) Read more of his reviews at

Ethan says...

Monster plays with your assumptions. I went into it assuming it would be similar to his previous film Broker, and for a time, I was vindicated. However, what starts as a tale of familial love soon develops into so much more, as we follow the interconnected lives of the film's principal characters, each of whom never quite sees the full picture. What could appear to be the truth from one perspective couldn't be further from it – once viewed from another angle – but at its core, Monster is about love, and how we can and cannot express it to one another.

Sakura Andō is captivating in her performance as a single mother trying her best to support her son, but to me, the true star of the film is Hinata Hiiragi, as her son's schoolmate Yori. His performance is excellent, with a few key line reads after which I found myself catching my breath and feeling enormous empathy for the character.

Special attention must be paid to the score by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Completed posthumously, Sakamoto's piano playing enhances the film wonderfully, perfectly enhancing the emotions of each scene and it was heartwarming to find that the film was dedicated to his memory.

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