Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sundance with Abe: Monos

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the sixth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

Directed by Alejandro Landes
World Dramatic Competition

The subject of child soldiers in not an easy one, and it’s often very difficult to watch their stories portrayed on screen. The notion of corrupting a child’s mind so that they believe they must fight for a certain cause leads to irreparable damage that may prevent a person from functioning long after a conflict has ended, if they are even able to survive it since their environments are so filled with violence. Capturing the mindset of those born into and trained for war at an early age is a formidable feat, one that can be just as powerful as it is disturbing.

A unit of child soldiers travels through the mountains and the trees of an unnamed country transporting their prized prisoner, an American doctor (Julianne Nicholson). The group members – Wolf, Lady, Swede, Smurf, Dog, Boom Boom, Bigfoot, and Rambo – are trained by an older representative of The Organization, their cause, but operate mostly on their own, proceeding along in military fashion during the day and letting their guard down at night in a way that might be more expected from people of their age.

This film, which has its share of harrowing moments, best succeeds in its portrayal of these children of war, who excitedly spend time with the doctor yet fail to understand that, given the chance to escape, she will certainly try because this is not an adventure for her but a true hell. The change in demeanor when they become “off-duty” is mesmerizing, and, because they largely command themselves, those moments begin to bleed together as they travel further and further into unknown territory. The doctor knows to play along to placate her captors, but she has trouble putting on a good face when they demonstrate a clear inability to understand her situation when she participates in a proof-of-life call.

Cast and crew members discuss the film

The collection of young actors here is deeply impressive, and assembling them all is a true feat of casting and direction. Nicholson, always a dependable player, turns in a vulnerable and shaken performance as the doctor. This film is carefully shot and visually engaging, though its narrative wanes considerably as it goes on, feeling endless and inescapable by a certain point. Those sentiments may be purposefully invoked, but this nightmarish journey feels as if it wanders way too long with many more opportune moments on which to end occurring before its eventual end.


No comments: