Director: Alejandro Landes
Starring: Sofia Buenaventura, Julian Giraldo, Karen Quintero, Laura Castrillón, Deiby Rueda, Paul Cubides, Sneider Castro, Moises Arias, Julianne Nicholson, Wilson Salazar
Words – Joe H.
In the remote mountains of South America, a group of child soldiers occupy an almost hauntingly beautiful landscape. They are known as ‘MONOS’, and they are part of a wider ‘organization’ from which they receive instruction.
They watch over an American hostage, and hold a strategic position, passing time with training exercises, games and tribal rituals. We are reminded they are still children, as they argue, kiss, and jostle for social standing, but you never forget what it is they are doing there – as even the games they play double as training exercises.
The bonds between them and the higher-archy of the group are tested when mistakes are made, forcing them down into the jungle, as personalities vie for position – again, we are reminded they are still children.
The dramatic landscape which the group inhabits is eerily beautiful, accentuated by an equally ominous film score. Composed by Mica Levi (Under The Skin, Jackie), the soundtrack is haunting, almost possessed.
An often menacing backdrop, its synthesizer-driven tones are propelled towards you in waves, amplifying the extremeness of the environment; oscillating electronics mixed with the environmental textures of flowing water and bird calls create an absorbing, yet tension-filled score. Even without the dramatic events taking place on-screen, the soundscape creates a sense of dread and isolation, within a naturally emotive environment – a string orchestra will bring moments of grace, then draw a sudden sensory cut as it fades abruptly.
It’s gripping, intense, sparse, and hugely atmospheric – it almost takes on a life of its own beyond the confines of the film.
Amidst a breathtaking environment, the film explores the chaos of conflict from the perspective of those too young to be emotionally equipped to deal with it, drawing comparisons to Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now, but still wholly original.
A story where order descends into chaos, unfolding with the absence of a specific time, date or place, MONOS is a hypnotic, cinematic and visceral thriller delivering one of the most astonishing films of the year.