Monos (Review) – Lord of flies meets guerrilla warfare in the mountains

Official Competition Winner

The clouds roll in under the summit of a mountain somewhere in Latin America. The foreboding landscape home to a group of teenagers named Boom Boom, Rambo, Dog, Smurf, Lady, Swede, Bigfoot and Wolf. All of whom are being schooled in the art of combat by a short muscular man. After training has ceased the man introduces the teenagers to a gift in the form a milking cow. The pint sized soldiers under strict instruction to take care of the cow at all costs. It’s milk a wonderful source of vitamins and nutrients.

However, the cow isn’t the only captive of the young group. Hidden in the caves is Docutra (Julianne Nicholson). An American women who is trotted out to read news in front of a camera. Occasionally offering tenderness to the child soldiers as their captive mother figure. The hormonal teens kept in line by the occasional visit from the short muscular man, and radio contact with ‘The Organisation’ who control them.

Hence starts Alejandro Landes beautiful yet haunting tail of young people left to their own devices. The teenagers lives controlled from a distance yet equally uncontrollable. Hormones, guns, livestock and captives mixing on a dew soaked mountain top as the groups fragile structure is tested.

One part Lord of the Flies and one part Apocalypse Now. Landes creates a dream like atmosphere, where the reason for the young people’s mission is never clear. For some viewers this will undoubtley cause frustration. But, ultimately Monos is a study of peer influence, tribal belonging and adult indifference. In a group where Doctura is the only real adult influence, her own life bound by captivity, fear and desire to escape. The teenagers only have themselves for guidance. Their group culture and practice at odds with the hidden cities they are no longer a part of. The actions of the group spiralling into tribal belonging as the distance between them and ‘The Organisation’ grows on their descent into the Jungle.

Monos (Neon Pictures) 2019

Monos takes the classic themes of Lord of the Flies, adding a unique atmosphere of gender fluidity. The societal structures of male and female no longer important to the young people. Their identities amalgamated into a singular gender construct. Group relationships based on physical attention, power and place, the gender of the person no longer a barrier in achieving status through sex and partnership. The dystopian atmosphere of the camp and group behaviours balanced with a sense of equity until alpha male Bigfoot takes control. His behaviour taking the group down a dark and slippery slope of fragmentation and tribal violence.

Monos is visually stunning. The mountainous landscape above the rolling clouds of the first half, descending into the animalistic jungle landscape of the second half. The teenagers embracing the descent into the predatory jungle, their own destructive power born of place rather than purpose.

The tribal belonging of the peer group eventually replacing the world outside, with those who cannot commit isolated and hunted. Their only real option of survival the peer group they long to escape. A message that resonates with gang membership and conflict in cities far away from the events at play in Monos.

Monos is daring and visually stunning filmmaking. The cinematography of Jasper Wolf sweeping you into the midst of the group, the claustrophobia of belonging interfacing with the wide open canvas of mountains, jungles and rivers. Alejandro Landes using every inch of the films cinemascope format, while also ensuring the audience feel a part of the groups descent into darkness.

Monos is a truly unique film, providing a cinematic journey that is a beautiful, dark and relentless enigma.

Director: Alejandro Landes

Starring: Julianne Nicholson, Moisés Arias, Sofia Buenaventura, Julian Giraldo, Karen Quintero, Laura Castrillón, Deiby Rueda, Esneider Castro, Paul Cubides, Wilson Salazar


Monos is showing at the BFI London Film Festival from Friday 4th October 2019.

Catch all our BFI London Film Festival Reviews HERE

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