‘Monster’ tackles racism, discrimination

By Annette Quijada

The emotionally charged film “Monster,” made its first appearance at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and with its Netflix premiere this week, the film remains as relevant in 2021. 

“Monster,” is a 98-minute film that takes viewer through different emotions of heartbreak and doubt being wrapped around hope. 

The film follows a 17-year-old honor student from New York, Steve Harmon played by Kelvin Harrison Jr, finds himself in a court battle after being accused of murder. 

Steve lives in a middle-class neighborhood in Harlem with his mom Mrs. Harmon played by Jennifer Hudson, his dad Mr. Harmon played by Jeffrey Wright and his little brother Jerry Harmon played by Nyleek Moore. 

He’s a great student who has a passion for filmmaking and photography. He’s out day and night venturing the world with his friends while also falling in love, as most teens do. But while going through his life flashbacks, the audience is left pondering about whether or not he was part of a crime. 

When preparing for the battle that comes with proving Harmons innocence, his attorney Katherine O-Brien played by Jennifer Ehle, tells him, “You’re young, you’re black, and you’re on trial. What else do they (the jury) need to know?” 

This memorable line picks up on the racism Black men have faced and continue to face in America. 

It’s been years now where it’s thrown out the window how good of a student or citizen one is. 

The simple fact that a person is Black and is being accused of a crime makes the probability of being labeled as quilty higher. 

Most films involving young Black men standing trail tend to focus a lot of attention to the political side of things. 

Instead “Monster,” aims to show the personal struggle that a young teen goes through when trying to process life in prison and life of the accused. 

Harmon narrates toward the end of the film,“I still hear people screaming four cells down, still feel the eyes of the guards on me as I sleep. I grab a hold of the air around me sometimes to remind myself I’m not going back.” 

This scene brings into question how do adolescent brains recover from the trauma they’ve experienced? Will Harmon be able to live a normal life again?

Anthony Mandler, who is originally known for being a music video director made his film debut, showing his storytelling skills in a very abstract way. 

Mandler pushes between different point of view, angles and perspectives of Harmon’s life to keep the audience questioning; this kid seems like a good kid, but also does the company he’s keeping have anything to do with the crime? 

Fans of the film can also check out the young adult book that inspired the movie titled, “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers. 

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