[LFF Review] 'Monos' is Not Your Typical Coming of Age Film
Taking inspiration from The Lord of The Flies, MONOS is a relentless look at the cycle of guerrilla warfare amongst Colombia's youth. Put in the centre of this conflict are a group of distinctive child soldiers, tasked with watching over a hostage and a conscripted milk cow, amid the bleak hellscape of the Colombian mountaintops.
Alejandro Landes knew what he wanted with the film and he definitely went for it. What resulted from that is an ambitious piece of filmmaking, that truly captivates throughout. The film takes a deep dive into the struggle and desolation of guerrilla warfare, and especially into the toll this brutality can have on child soldiers participating in this unforgiving battle.
Each member of the group has such a uniquely distinct personality, that it makes for a very interesting dynamic between the group and their interactions. From Bigfoot's jarring presence to Wolf's muddled intentions and Smurfs' attempts to appear mature, Landes assembles a beguiling group of child soldiers, that each go through their own particular paths to come of age, whilst still being constituted to the group.
The warfare in its own plays a huge part in the film. The unrelenting nature of guerrilla warfare is influential in the strengthening of their characters. The tension of the war builds around them, at times dividing them, as well as uniting them. It could be said that the intense atmosphere in the film, sparked by guerrilla warfare, plays an ever-present character of its own, further developed by Jasper Wolf's awing cinematography.
Wolf's cinematography is nothing short of spectacular. Alluring, gorgeous, atmospheric - Monos' cinematography is what truly makes the film such a captivating watch. From scene 1, Wolf's epic cinematography takes us through Monos with a craving for more breathtaking shots, transporting us into a barren wilderness, surrounded by the gripping effects of guerrilla warfare. Jasper Wolf easily makes Monos one of the best shot films of the decade.
Adding a final touch of viciousness to an over-pouring beaker of ferocity is Mica Levi's barbarous electronic score, that gifts the film with moments of unease and discomfort. It is eccentrically loud and harsh, suiting the overbearing nature of the film.
MONOS drenches its audience in intensity to bring out an unrelenting experience. It could easily be cut down by a bit and have a more conclusive ending to wrap up each character's arc, however it does end on an impactful note, focusing on the outcome of one character and their reflection on their experience with the group, as a child soldier having participated in and having been affected by guerrilla warfare. It remains to be unsettling and enigmatic - one of the most uniquely crafted films of 2019.
It should be a requirement that everyone watches this on the biggest screen possible.
Monos screened at the 2019 London Film Festival and won the Best Film Award in the Official Competition. It was distributed in the U.S. by NEON and Participant Media, and will be released by Picturehouse in the U.K. from October 25.