Monster Movie Review: Hirokazu Kore-eda Enters the Classroom for New Stirring Drama

Review: Monster may take a bit too long to get going for me to say it’s near the top of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s best movies, but there’s a lot to like as you dive deeper and deeper into it. The tone has the classic Kore-eda touch, but with a slightly more melancholic downbeat.

monster kore-eda film 2023
Monster (2023) Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Hirokazu Kore-eda juxtaposes his 2023 movie, Monster, against its own title. Naming your movie Monster instills an inherent sense of danger and hostility, and while Kore-eda’s latest film isn’t void of those emotions, it stills packs the same humanistic punch that has helped the writer/filmmaker gain such acclaim throughout the 21st century.

The movie follows a cyclical, anthological pattern where it depicts the same critical events and timeframe, just through a different perspective and with shifting knowledge. When her young son Minato (Soya Kurokawa) starts to behave strangely, Saori (Sakura Ando) feels that there is something wrong. Discovering that his teacher, Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama), is responsible, she storms into the school demanding to know what’s going on. But as the story unfolds and we see the events told through eyes of Saori, Mr. Hori, and eventually Minato, the picture becomes crystal clear and all the more heartbreaking in the process.

There are many readings of Monster that you could make. Hirokazu Kore-eda has developed so many movies that make the case for the underlying goodness in people that it’s hard not to take that route when unpacking the critical (and final) moments of the film, but there’s also a side of me that can’t help shake the feeling that Monster actually takes a more grisly, upsetting final turn. It’s Kore-eda’s first directorial work in a while where he doesn’t have a writing credit as well, and the dreariness of screenwriter Yuji Sakamoto’s script really seeps through as the story progresses into the second and third acts.

Reviews for Films like Monster (2023)

Which is where I found Monster particularly effective. I had a slightly difficult time breaking into the film during the first act, feeling like it takes a similar approach to relationships between teachers and students as a film like The Teachers’ Lounge, which also intends to anger you as the viewer more than it tries to entertain you. There’s a believability factor that you need to set aside for both, and maybe a decade down the line I’ll revisit these two and find them more riveting and digestible on face value without feeling like it’s slipping through the filmmakers’ fingers. For now, I find The Teachers’ Lounge and the first act of Monster to be overstuffed with modern educational overtones that overstay their welcome.

And that’s why I find the remainder of Monster to be the opposite – so striking, visually engaging, and emotionally harrowing. Hirokazu Kore-eda really flexes his directing style with material that’s significantly more acidic and bludgeoning than anything he’s made since Shoplifters, now over half a decade ago. He’s clearly invested in positioning well-minded characters in excruciating circumstances that test their willpower, and that rarely achieves such clarity as it does in this movie.

Soya Kurokawa as Minato, and Hinata Hiiragi as his friend from school, Yori, completely take over the second hour of the film with such unique screen presence for two child actors. I usually tap out of a movie if it has relatively surface child performances leading the way, but these two manage to feel emotionally and intellectually beyond the years, both offering enough to help piece together a story told from so many different points of view and moments in time.

I’m not acquainted with everything Hirokazu Kore-eda has directed in the past, but I’ve generally liked what I’ve seen from him. Monster may take a bit too long to get going for me to say it’s near the top of his filmography, but there’s a lot to like as you dive deeper and deeper into it. The climax of the second and third acts are just tremendous and are worth watching the entire film for just by themselves. And beyond that are some stellar performances and a tone that features that classic Kore-eda touch, but with a slightly more melancholic downbeat.


Genre: Drama

Watch Monster (2023) on VOD here

Join our newsletter

Monster Movie Cast and Credits

monster 2023 movie


Soya Kurokawa as Minato Mugino

Hinata Hiiragi as Yori Hoshikawa

Sakura Ando as Saori Mugino

Eita Nagayama as Mr. Hori

Yûko Tanaka as Makiko Fushimi


Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Writer: Yuji Sakamoto

Cinematography: Ryūto Kondō

Editor: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Composer: Ryuichi Sakamoto

New Movie Reviews from Cinephile Corner