“Don’t go to the park” – Steven Harmon (Kevin Harrsion Jr.) often hears this phrase from his mother (Jennifer Hudson). Criminals hang out in the park, people who deal drugs steal. Steven just shouldn’t get the wrong idea. After all, the family did everything to ensure that the 17-year-old got a better school than most of the kids in Harlem.
But when Steven has to make another short film for a school course – one more exciting than his loose black and white story – he is drawn out into the countryside. He films skaters, passers-by, the rush hour traffic and suddenly King (Rakim Mayers, known as rapper A $ AP Rocky).
The much older boy speaks to him on the basketball court in the park. Steven has to record it, portray real life in the city. King is waving bills, his golden rings glistening on his fingers. Steven pulls out the phone and follows him, day after day. Until at some point the police stand at his door and arrest him for a murder.
Walter Dean Myers’ youth novel “Monster” is the basis
The feature film debut of Anthony Mandler, who previously made music videos for artists such as Jay-Z, Rihanna and Lana Del Rey, is based on the 1999 youth novel “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers and was shown for the first time at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Unlike in the book, the film only focuses on the role of Steven, King is secondary. However, Mandler also uses only one protagonist to impressively show how quickly a young person can go astray and be condemned as a black person.
King (Rakim Mayers) and Steven (Kevin Harrsion Jr.) sit in court with their lawyers.
While not all of the evidence is clear, Steven is immediately guilty of the officers. The other side’s lawyer even tells his assigned defense attorney (Jennifer Ehle) that they should agree on a deal right away. In the courtroom he is called a monster. Whether the boy really killed someone doesn’t even interest his fellow prisoners (including rapper Nasir “Nas” Jones).
Only at the end does Mandler solve the riddle of guilt and innocence. Until then, he zigzags after Stevens’ story, staggering from before the case to the court, back again and to the beginning. Kevin Harrsion Jr., who last appeared in the drama “Waves”, shines in the role of a boy who at some point struggles with himself and looks at the world like in his short films: black and white.
Accompanied by music by Santigold and The Persuaders as well as opulent camera shots, Madler has succeeded in making a debut that has a lasting effect. That is not only about black youth, questionable decisions and legal processes, but above all about prejudice and current racism. At the end of the day, the audience inevitably asks: Why is this reality?
“Monster! Monster? ”Has been on Netflix since May 7th