The clouds roll in under the summit of an unknown mountain somewhere in Latin America. A group of teenagers named Boom Boom, Rambo, Dog, Smurf, Lady, Swede, Bigfoot and Wolf are atop the mountain staring down at the clouds. Each one is being schooled in the art of combat by a short and mysterious man before being gifted a cow for fresh milk. However, the pint-sized soldiers are strictly instructed to take care of the cow at all costs. Meanwhile, hidden in the caves under their feet sits Doctora (Julianne Nicholson), an American woman hostage to the group’s whims. So begins Alejandro Landes’ beautiful yet haunting tale of young people left to their own devices in a haze of hormones.
Part Lord of the Flies and part Apocalypse Now, Landes creates a dream-like atmosphere while holding the reasons for our young soldier’s mission at a distance. Here Monos is a study of peer influence, tribal belonging, control and adult indifference – the group’s culture and practices at odds with the hidden cities they no longer inhabit. Themes of gender fluidity, sexuality, fear and blind belief surround each conversation and interaction, the dystopian atmosphere of the camp leading its members down a dark and slippery slope of fragmentation and tribal violence.
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Monos evades simple explanation from the outset through its visually stunning adrenaline-fuelled volatility. Here the vast mountains of the first act slowly descend into the animalistic jungle of the second act. While the tribal belonging of the peer group eventually replaces the world outside. Here the isolated become the hunted in a daring and visually stunning slice of modern filmmaking. Alejandro Landes’ uses every inch of the film’s cinemascope format in painting his exquisite portrait of an adolescent descent into darkness with the result, a beautiful and haunting 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