Monster's Ball


Directed by: Marc Foster
Written by:Milo Addica, Will Rokos
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle, Sean Combs
Released: March 28, 2002
Grade: A+

It’ll be almost impossible to explain in words how much I loved Monster’s Ball.  On paper, it’s a simple story but at a time when I’m as sensitively cynical as ever, this film packed a very strong emotional punch.

Buck (Boyle), Hank (Thornton) and Sonny (Ledger) are three generations in the Grotowski Family.  Hank and Sonny currently work as prison guards in the Correctional Facility.  Ready to be executed is Lawrence Musgrove (Combs) who after 11 years of failed appeals awaits his meeting with the electric chair.  His wife, Leticia (Berry) and their son, Tyrell, pay a final emotional visit.

At the execution, Sonny loses his composure (and guts) on escorting Lawrence from his cell.  This is just another reason for Hank to be disappointed in his son and he’s not afraid to tell him this to his face.  In the following days, Leticia loses her job and the bank has served a 30-day eviction notice.  Both Hank and Leticia are subconsciously seeking someone to emotionally confide it and in an unfortunate and shocking coincidence, they find themselves together.

Revealing more will spoil the experience so I’ll keep tight-lipped regarding the intriguingly depressing plot developments.  Marc Foster is a wonderful choice as director.  The screenplay requires the story be told slowly and to compensate, he shows the actions of more than one character during particular scenes.  The grim colouring and camerawork is spot on.  A sex scene between Berry and Thornton is refreshingly honest and not glossed up.

I’ve loved to hate Halle Berry as I dislike her choice of roles and her “award show darling” status but her chance has arrived to become a serious actress.  She has taken this opportunity and transformed it into a life-changing role.  Already an Academy Award winner, Halle Berry has indeed arrived.  Billy Bob Thornton seems to like softspoken roles and is wonderful as is Heath Ledger in a minor role as his son.  I enjoy a film lacking in dialogue as it becomes more a study of emotions and you watch and appreciate the characters instead of merely listening to them.

Unnecessarily rated R for its strong sexual content, I hope Monster’s Ball finds an audience.  People who whinge (including me) about continually unimpressive American movies can get off our bandwagon for a week and start telling others about this wonderful independent production funded by Lions Gate.  An emotional rollercoaster that doesn’t stop until long after the cinema.