Sundance 2019 – Monos

There’s a singular quality to Monos. It resembles the films of Herzog, Cuarón and Iñárritu, yet nothing else out there is quite like it. After the film screen, writer/director Alejandro Landes talked about his desire for the film to flow like a river – he succeeded. Most of these Sundance films I’m able to write my reviews for fairly quickly and publish them within 12 hours of seeing the film. Not this one. Monos demanded I sleep on it and let it reside in my dreams, and I commend it for that.

On a remote mountain in Columbia, a group of child soldiers watch over an American hostage and a milk cow. Their paradise becomes lost as circumstances bring tragedy and suffering.

This film is impossibly beautiful to look at. Filmed on remote locations, it’s just wondrous what they captured in the natural environment. The cinematography from Jasper Wolf is astounding, capturing the natural light in a subtly heightened manner to make it all the more ethereal. The mountain scenes take place above the clouds, secluded and heavenly. The jungle scenes are dense, crammed and hellish. You never feel like they winged it on any shot, each frame is just so deliberate, focused and hypnotically constructed. You just wonder how in the hell they pulled some of these shots off, this movie must have been hell to make and feels like it. Alejandro Landes is a filmmaker to keep an eye on after this.

The cast is terrific, a mix of industry talent and newcomers. Everyone is seamlessly authentic, you’d never know some of these kids had never been in front of a camera before. Mica Levi continues to be one of the most interesting composers working. Her score is a gorgeous nightmare of synths and whistles that only she is capable of.

One of the things we do in the back of our minds is try to figure out how much success the film we’re watching will gain throughout the year. I see no reason why Monos can’t compete for a Best Foreign Film oscar. I wish I had more to say about this film, because it’s great, but I don’t. I’m just glad I got to see it, the final shot of those eyes staring into my soul will stick with me for weeks.

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