monster review

film by Hirokazu Kore-eda (2023)

Hirokazu Kore-eda is one of the most respected auteurs of world cinema due to his uncanny and sincere portrayal of the human condition. Monster comes just off the heels of Kore-eda’s 2022 Broker, continuing the line of his prolific filmography, which has delighted audiences, film critics, and festivals since the 1990s. With his moving poetic gestures and complex character developments, Kore-eda is a workhorse of quality whose films consistently captivate us with wonderfully profound and emotional introspection.

Review by Aaron Jones | May 27, 2024

Saori’s (Sakura Ando) son Minato (Soya Kurokawa) begins to exhibit strange behaviors one day after coming home from school. Suspecting the school as a possible catalyst, she confronts the administration, only to be met with a bizarre, mechanical, and clinical response. As she begins to suspect that her son’s teacher is responsible for physically abusing him, she is told by the teacher that it is Minato who is the abuser and that the victim is another student. Saori seeks out Yori, the other student, and finds that they are friends. Meanwhile, the teacher, Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama), has been fired, and an ambiguous entanglement of perceptions begins to unravel.


Monster is a moving meditation on human ecology portrayed through a coming-of-age story and told through the revisiting of three separate character perspectives that weave interconnected mysteries and multifaceted perceptions, sure to elicit conflicting dialogues within its viewers. Through carefully choreographed sequences, Kore-eda guides us down the emotional paths of two young boys, Minato Magino (Soya Kurokawa) and Yori Hoshikawa (Hinata Hiiragi), against the backdrop of the equally harrowing experiences of the adults in their lives. Bookended by two catastrophic events, a fire and a hurricane, at the heart of this film is an emotionally intelligent and ambiguous work about the unsettling truths of our perceptions.

Monster (2023) by Hirokazu Kore-eda
A scene from the movie “Monster.”

The film’s lingering pace invites us to engage in each character’s emotional process individually and collectively. Kore-eda utilizes his wonderfully expressive, complex interpersonal lens to earnestly portray relationships and dynamics that can hopefully broaden our capacity for careful observation and limit our tendency toward seeing the world through the lens of our own experience. This can leave us vulnerable to the dangers of hearsay, the impulsivity of strictly emotional reactions, and our need for scapegoats and targets of blame. The varying complexities of each person’s experience are revealed, possibly suggesting that their so-called fallibilities and behaviors should summon pensive reflection and empathy instead of quick and harsh judgment.


Kore-eda’s methodical intimacy allows a deeper conversation to arise as he builds up the characters and then carefully deconstructs them. A mysterious ambiguity is tied to the plot, which opens its broader thematic structure by bringing awareness to the landscape of our unconscious process. The subtle relativity of experience upon which this film relies carries the weight of its tonal shift in a new direction. One in which the very behaviors we are being asked to contemplate are ones in which we need to participate, summoning such a conversation resembling an experiment in human psychology with his audience. Through multifaceted perspectives, it evokes introspective and retrospective internalizations of experience in what feels like an archaeological dig, where each new layer of sediment reveals something both on-screen and within us—guiding us through a broad revealing process of character discovery that doubles as an opportunity for our self-reflection.

Monster (2023) by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Hiiragi Hinata and Kurokawa Soya as Yori and Minato.

With the film’s progression, the truth rises to the surface after a methodical penetration of its layers. We begin to see an unconditional and genuine bond between the two surreptitious boys, whose friendship transcends social conventions. It is a bond that is symptomatic of the hostile apathy of their everyday world and strengthened by its absence. Beneath these guarded exteriors are complex characters burdened with unyielding weight and fraught with emotional complexities that the boys are beginning to understand how to navigate. The film invites us into the privacy of their relationship through the symbolic imagery of their alienation as they retreat into places of seclusion. They find refuge in an abandoned school bus draped in images of the solar system, symbolizing a desire to escape their confinements and subjugations and providing a source of happiness that their social settings cannot provide them.


Monster is a call to empathy, and in observance of its title, it is also about the monsters we see within ourselves and others. Specifically, it demonstrates how our evaluation of “reality” is filtered through the lens of our own biases, experiences, and judgments, often reified by those in positions of authority and characterized by preconceived notions and subconscious projections. The film’s finale leaves it up to the viewer to come to their own conclusions, tying in a cyclic fate to the boys’ hopes and dreams of rebirth. It acknowledges that no matter how dark or joyous we may find it, Minato and Yori have reconciled their place in the world and, more importantly, with one another.

Aaron Jones


Reviewed and published by Aaron Jones. Based in California, he developed a passion for film from a young age and has since viewed over 10,000 films. Curently serves as a film critic at CinemaWaves, he has contributed to other publications as well. Feel free to follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.

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