The list of judicial errors that occur in the trials that take place in the American courtrooms is very long and most of these, it is a fact, it involves people of color. The George Floyd case may not be enough to change a situation that has existed overseas since the abolition of slavery and which, even if sometimes used as a priori alibi for unjustifiable riots and raids, still upsets the social heart of the States and that ideal of american dream which, apparently, is addressed in its falsity exclusively to the Caucasian ethnicity.
Precisely on this theme today as never before at the center of media attention is Monster based, film presented in 2018 at the Sundance Film Festival and which is only now getting international distribution, landing in the Netflix catalog as an original.
It is therefore normal that the most recent events and the movement Black Lives Matter remain excluded, but little changes in the ever-current story of a story of ordinary injustice which sees an African American boy personally involved.
Human or monster
Adaptation of the novel of the same name by Walter Dean Myers, Monster stars 17-year-old Steve Harmon, a boy from a good family with a great passion for cinema and photography, so much so that he attended themed courses and made short films which, however, are still immature.
Without knowing it, overnight he will become the “star” of his personal film, which however turns out to be much more dramatic than he could ever have imagined. Due to mismatches with petty thugs in the neighborhood, Steve inadvertently gets involved in a murder case: two hooded individuals killed the owner of a market during a robbery.
Believed to be co-responsible for the crime, the young man is taken to jail without any explanation and thrown into a cell. He will be alone the beginning of a long and complex judicial process, with witnesses claiming to have seen him near the shop a few seconds before the crime and the jury apparently ready to pronounce his sentence.
The moral support of his family will be fundamental and that, much more practical and useful in the trial phase, of determined defense attorney Katherine O’Brien, ready to do anything to clear him of any accusation.
Fair but slow
The operation directed by Anthony Mandler, known for his career in the world of music videos and here at its debut in the cinema, it is peculiar from a narrative point of view, since everything that happens is a sort of report in the form of images: the voice-over of the protagonist, a sort of screenwriter and director of a film of his own, imposes times and places on what happens on the screen.
An interesting idea but one that in the long run risks tiring, given that it often ends up redundant on superfluous elements – then not fully explored after completion – and one must necessarily go along with the accused’s version.
Sure, the ending adds that partial ambiguity underlined several times in the antithetical dichotomy between monster and human being, repeated several times even in the dialogue phase, but the risk that a large part of the public will lose interest already in the middle of the viewing is not entirely excluded.
The scenes between the classrooms can count in particular on Jennifer Ehle’s skill and John David Washington’s brief cameo, but they disfigure in rhythm and intensity with the classics of the vein, and the continuous flashbacks end up reaffirming elements already known or imagined, ending excluded. Precisely the basic monothematic trend is the greatest limitation of a production otherwise loyal to the cause it wants to represent.