Describing Monos without spoiling anything is kind of difficult. However, it’s what the film requires in order to get the full experience of watching it. In some ways, it’s a conventional film but how it gets there is more unique than almost anything you’ll see released these days in the world of cinema.
Deep in the jungle of an unnamed Latin American country, a cast of characters who only go by aliases live, train, and prepare. Getting a little closer allows you to see that outside of one person, everyone else is a guerilla in their teens. For them, life has been as simple as it could get during this period. However, a series of events change that as loyalty, honor, and leadership come into question and take things in an even darker direction.
The opening act of Monos is extremely vague and kind of uncommon. We’re introduced to the characters and are asked to essentially study how they’re living their lives. Throughout this portion of the film, not a lot is going on outside of that. We’re not really given an obvious story or anything at this point. It’s mostly setting everything up as we get to know the guys to some extent while getting to understand their environment and routine.
This section of Monos could be good to watch as it’s somewhat of a spectacle, but it could also lose some people if they’re not committed to watching the entire movie. I say that because what’s included in this part of the movie could be seen as aimless. For me, I liked most of what I was watching here, but some could bail out before everything truly gets moving like you might expect it to.
If you like what’s being presented to you in the early going or you’re someone who just decided to stick with it, I think you’ll most likely be satisfied with what comes after. As you’ll see, handling this film in this fashion allows you to get lost in the environment these characters exist in. It also helps carry the film in a way that prevents it from becoming boring or having too many dry spots as it works to reach its relatively short hour and forty-two-minute run time.
We get enough movies these days that don’t really have a plot or storyline, so it’s easy to see why this would seem like just another one of those at first. Just as you might begin to feel like that’s what you’re going to get, the narrative structure begins to take shape and things are revealed to us more as time goes by. In some instances, what they give us is pretty vague, but in others, it’s more obvious even when it’s not given to us in a direct manner.
Because there is a story and there’s a reason for Monos to be structured this way, the movie ends up having a unique feel even if it’s not wholly original. By not going into great depth early on here, certain things are allowed to marinate for a bit. After a while, it all begins to shift into a more conventional style of storytelling.
Opening this up in a normal way could have forced the director to stretch other parts of it out a bit more later on. Doing so would have likely slowed the movie down in certain spots and made it more of a chore to watch. By simply focusing on the characters and some of the relationships early before introducing us to the plot later, we don’t get the lulls we usually have to deal with when films try to extend themselves.
I have to point out that this is a foreign-language film. That could also be a deterrent for some as well, but this may be an instance where it’s easier to digest than usual. I say that because while there is obviously talking, it isn’t excessive. The dialogue moves at a real-life pace and gives its viewers a legitimate chance to actually watch what’s taking place on-screen rather than just reading the subtitles the entire time. This may not make much of a difference to those who don’t enjoy too much reading while watching, but it could help.
Although there are a number of positives to speak of, Monos isn’t a perfect film or anything. While I’ve already spoken about how there’s at least a chance for some to be turned off by the opening act, I also found some of the sexual elements of Monos to be a little weird at times. There’s a good amount of it, but there are a couple of instances where there doesn’t appear to be a reason for it. While it doesn’t damage the film, it just kind of gets in the way a bit.
When taking everything into account, Monos works in ways I didn’t anticipate. With it coming from a studio like NEON, I guess I can’t be too surprised. Although they haven’t been around long, they’ve made the most of what they’ve put out to the masses so far. I hope they keep heading in this direction. Not only are they trying new things, but there also appears to be an honest attempt to provide content that’s worthwhile for viewers.
Director: Alejandro Landes
Alexis Dos Santos
Film Length: 102 minutes
September 13th, 2019 ( U.S. Limited)
September 27th, 2019 (U.S. Wide)
- Score - 8/108/10