Scene from the film Monster
Two girls in dresses singing in a living room decorated for a party.

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) returns to his native country in this haunting triptych about children and the adults who care for and discipline them. Single mother Saori is distraught that her 11-year-old son Minato is behaving in an alarming manner, and believes he is being emotionally abused by a new teacher, Mr. Mori, who apparently has called Minato a “pig-brain.”

Bracketed by a fire which destroys a hostess-house and a monsoon, the film traces the events and reasons for Minato’s strange behavior over the same time from three points of view: Saori’s (in outrage she confronts the school and receives a chillingly formal response); Mr. Mori (he accuses Minato of bullying a younger sensitive boy, Yori); then the revealing coda: the tender, complicated relationship and world of Minato and Yori,two lonely, imaginative, young boys.

This is the last film that Ryuichi Sakamoto scored before his death in April 2023 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

“This story about childhood, love, and misunderstanding begins under the sign of disaster and keeps reminding us how vulnerable our world is. That it features the most delicate of piano scores from the late Ryuichi Sakamoto, who reportedly submitted two new pieces and several previously recorded ones because he was too ill to compose a full soundtrack, merely adds to the film’s heartbreaking fragility.” (Vulture)

Film website:

In Japanese with English subtitles