Monos is a curious beast. Massively critically acclaimed, I have to confess I was rather less impressed with it than some. Whilst I agree that it is visually arresting and interesting, I don’t think it is quite the masterpiece some have claimed.
Set in an unnamed South American nation (possibly Colombia), the plot concerns a squad of child/teenage soldiers living in the mountains, who have been assigned by “The Organisation” to watch an adult female captive who is presumably being held for ransom. We follow this group of soldiers as they train, joke around, celebrate birthdays, and sort-of bond with their prisoner, before an incident with a cow they have been asked to look after triggers a peculiar Lord of the Flies meets Apocalypse Now sort-of scenario.
The film features strong performances from the cast of young unknowns. Jasper Wolfs’s cinematography is frequently stunning (especially the mountains with silhouetted figures against spectacular cloudscapes). An eerie, offbeat, haunting music score by Mica Levi is another bonus, and director Alejandro Landes is clearly very talented. But the screenplay was just too meandering for me to become fully engaged with the film. It’s admirable, compelling, and occasionally surreal and shocking, but it didn’t get under my skin the way I had hoped it would.
All that said, Monos is an atmospheric curiosity that is certainly worth a look, especially on a big screen.
UK Certificate: 15
US Certificate: R
Content warnings: Some swearing, violence, and sexual content.