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  Monos Too Young To Die
Year: 2019
Director: Alejandro Landes
Stars: Sofia Buenaventura, Julián Giraldo, Karen Quintero, Laura Castrillón, Deiby Rueda, Paul Cubides, Sneider Castro, Moises Arias, Julianne Nicholson, Wilson Salazar, Jorge Román, Valeria Diana Solomonoff
Genre: Drama, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the jungles of Colombia, the guerrillas wage their war, and must recruit from the young of the locals to replenish their numbers as much as possible. In this troop of eight, with barely a roof over their heads, they are trained regularly on how to use their firearms, keep up their strength and stamina, and basically how to survive in what are pretty dire conditions. They must also eat and drink, so to that end have been given a cow to look after that will provide them with milk: they name her Shakira. However, there is a woman they have to look after as well, one they name Doctora (Julianne Nicholson), an engineer their bosses have taken hostage and entrusted to the kids...

Director and co-writer Alejandro Landes was inspired by two main influences when he made his second feature: William Golding's classic novel Lord of the Flies, and the conflict that had raged in his home nation since before he was born. He took a mostly nonprofessional cast - Nicholson and Moises Arias are the only actors you may recognise, having notched up decent careers prior to this - and they and his crew were taken to the jungle to posit the kind of experience these people might go through should they be trapped in this battle situation. The answer to that is a living nightmare they try to survive with a macho brand of camaraderie: fighting, pairing off, firing their weapons.

Indeed, they seemed to spend more time grappling with one another, both aggressively and more carnally, than they did performing as soldiers against an actual enemy. Those opponents are more or less never seen, not for the vast majority of the picture anyway, though we did see their effects as every so often with no warning whatsoever an explosive would go off. The engineer did not appear to be an enemy so much as an innocent in between these two sides who had been opportunistically grabbed as a pawn in a war that has dragged on so long it was as if nobody knew why they were battling anymore, nor what started the war in the first place. Its pointlessness was purposeful.

The youth of the guerrillas delivered the message that all of those doing the fighting would not have been alive when the conflict began, heck, they would not have been alive at the halfway point in the fighting from the beginning to the stage we catch up with them. What was most disturbing was that these characters, most of whom were teenagers at least, would be hunted down themselves should they try to escape from this life of violence; when in the latter stages many of them are seeing sense and realising they have nothing to gain by this, and their lives to lose, they have essentially signed their own death warrants. Fight or die - or fight and die, that was the Hobson's choice they were faced with, as the young of Colombia were churned up in a civil war we are given no hint of reason about.

Many compared Monos to Francis Ford Coppola's sprawling Apocalypse Now, flattering it in the allusions to the last superproduction by a nineteen-seventies auteur to be a hit in that decade, conveniently forgetting what a pretentious mish-mash ended up on the screen, glorious as it was. This contained more focus, while managing to emphasise the chaotic, shapeless existence these soldiers were trapped in, where any rules were arbitrary and even living on your wits was no guarantee they would be enough to prevail. The scenery was often drenched in heavy rain, yet attained a kind of majesty, as if nature was looking on and sadly wondering why these kids were not appreciating it more instead of preparing to kill or be killed. If there was a problem, ironically it was that adherence to authenticity, so while you could well believe this was accurate to the atmosphere of a guerrilla camp, it did not make for much of a plotline. If you were prepared for that, it did impress. Music by Mica Levi, hallucinatory as the rest of it.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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