While The Hate U Give delivers an excellent portrayal of the ripple effects of police brutality and how our generation can get involved in activism, it isn’t the only film this fall which talks about how the trickle-down impact of police violence today.
What makes Monsters and Men stand out from the pack is that instead of romanticizing or sensationalizing police brutality, Reinaldo Marcus Green crafted a film that recreates an unfiltered look at real aftermath from this police violence does to multiple affected parties.
The film is an interwoven narrative that explores the aftermath of a police killing of a black man. It is told through the eyes of the bystander who filmed the act, Manny (Anthony Ramos) an African-American police officer, Dennis (John David Washington) and a high-school baseball phenom who is inspired to take a stand, Zyrick (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.). Manny ends up getting unjustly arrested, Dennis battles the inner conflict of convincing himself that the job is for him and Zyrick doesn’t really know how to process everything that’s going on and what he can do to make an impact.
In the end, we don’t get explicitly clear answers about the state of the characters. There’s no direct word on what’s going to happen to Manny, Dennis still doesn’t “get it” and Zyrick is still settling into figuring out how he can best make an impact. Everything is left pretty much open to interpretation, but the most powerful part about this is that it is a reflection of what happens now. Even from a few years back when widespread police violence first starting being exposed via social media to this point in time, we still don't have answers or call-to-actions when it comes to what's next. Monsters and Men is a representation of that feeling.
These acts of violence against brown and black bodies often leave millennials and Gen Z asking what can they do to make a change? And these instances impact different people in different ways. This is why Zyrick’s arc is so powerful, because in the age where social media activism seems to be the only way to get your voice heard and some aren’t sure how to go about physical protest, it leaves you at a loss of thought on how you can contribute to something that undoubtedly impacts you. He's angry. He's confused. He's wanting to participate and make a change in something that directly affects him. It's what we've all gone through at one time or another.
Also, while Dennis’ actions and storyline may be frustrating to those who watch the film, it is a real internal conflict that black and brown officers have to go through. They may think they are making a real change, but the end result is a lot of times still the same. While we may not like it, Monsters and Men delivers this to us in a way that provokes our thoughts about this and challenges both sides.
There’s also Green’s unorthodox style of filmmaking here, which is innovative in that our film is structured in three acts and the three leads rarely interact — although they are interconnected through the entirety of the film. The three different perspectives show how in the real world, everyone deals with these situations differently and may have different approaches. Even outside of the three main characters, Rob Morgan, who plays Zyrick's father, isn't too keen on him getting involved because he wants better for his son. Again, the situations don't impact everyone the same, and this is exactly how these instances play out in real-life as well.
Monsters and Men will go down as a Black Lives Matter film that upended the format and presented us with a direct mirror as to what black and brown folks feel during this pivotal and crucial time in our society.
The film is in theaters now.