Monsterís Ball
Damaged souls. Leticia and Hank begin to live a little (Berry and Thornton)

dir Marc Forster
scr Milo Addica, Will Rokos
with Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle, Mos Def, Sean Combs, Coronji Calhoun, Amber Rules, Leah Loftin, John McConnell, Will Rokos, Milo Addica
release US 26.Dec.01; UK 7.Jun.02
Lion's Gate 01/US 1h51

4Ĺ out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
a lifetime of change in a single moment There's a fantastic streak of integrity in this film that fiercely demonstrates the power of sticking to your guns--standing up against the Hollywood movie machine to make the film you want to make. Writers Addica and Rokos refused to sell their script to anyone who wouldn't respect it; director Forster vividly captures the nuances and beauty in the story; and the performances are jaw-droppingly powerful.

The title refers to a party thrown for a condemned man before his execution. Hank (Thornton) lives with his dad Buck (Boyle) and his son Sonny (Ledger) like a gradient scale of heartlessness and racism passed from generation to generation. All three are Louisiana death row prison guards; Buck is bitter and twisted, Hank is anaesthetized and aloof, Sonny is trying to find meaning in society and struggling with his job as the first execution approaches. But the electric chair isn't the only thing that brings tragedy to these lives, and Hank is surprised to find solace in the arms of the condemned man's widow (Berry), someone who finally matches his desolation and numbness ... and his search for hope.

All of the performances are astonishing, revealing deep truths about human interaction, relationships, healing and redemption without ever taking the obvious route. This is due in large part to the sensitive and minimalist screenplay, which addresses its themes purely through the characters. Berry is particularly moving, speaking more in her silences than most films do with detailed voiceovers. The film's final scene rests on her shoulders, and she carries it brilliantly without a single word. This is a gritty, achingly real story full of wonderful touches as it examines how people tenderly help each other break with the past at exactly the moment when they need to, and are ready to, do so.
adult themes and situations, nudity, language, violence cert 15 12.Mar.02

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
a lifetime of change in a single moment send your review to Shadows... "This is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton were FANTASTIC. This movie does not follow the Hollywood Formula, which I found refreshing. If you love good acting, see this movie." --Gumbycat, New York 20.Jun.02

"This is a brilliant, haunting film about loyalty, what loyalty does to people and how, or if, loyalty can be shifted to bring hope, rather than despair. Racisim is an element of the story but is not what the story is about. The performances by Berry and Thornton are extraordinary. I can't recommend it enough." --Liz, San Francisco 15.Aug.02

© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall