Monos Movie of the Year 2019 Explained

Monos Movie of the Year 2019 Explained - Monos is one of the most heart wrenchingly difficult, yet exhilarating movies ever made. It really has to be seen to be believed.
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I have a weakness. The movie I just finished is always my favorite movie. Movies like Remainder, movies like Faults, or maybe even A Dark Song… when I finish them, I think they are the greatest movie I’ve ever seen. I am aware of this weakness, and to counterbalance this tendency of mine, I’ve walked through your favorite movies list, and mine, in order to determine that Monos really is my favorite movie of the year. And yeah, even after walking through our lists, I am CERTAIN that this is 100% the best movie of the year. Monos Movie of the Year 2019 Explained…but what is it?

I had actually no idea what Monos was, less than a week or two ago. And when I had it on good authority that Monos was going to sweep this awards season for Colombia, if not for everyone else, I went into this movie completely, and totally blind. And for the first 15 to 20 minutes I thought I had just rented the wrong movie. Something about a cow, and some Spanish kids with guns or something? I was so confused. But then the horror of the situation started coalescing and taking shape. And I was blown away with what I was watching.

Monos tells the story of the children soldiers of the civil war that has been ravaging the nation for the past sixty years. And we see this story play out from the perspective of eight children who are responsible for the care of a doctor (played brilliantly by Julianne Nicholson from I, Tonya) whom they have abducted. If you take Lord of the Flies, toss in a little Apocalypse Now, and a whole lot of Heart of Darkness, you’ll get a sense of what we are dealing with here in this movie.

Alright – from here on out – spoilers abound. Don’t keep reading if you haven’t seen the film yet. Got it? Great. Don’t make me walk to your house and disconnect your interwebs. Good.

Monos Movie Walkthrough

A group of children open up the movie of Monos. They are stationed on a Colombian mountaintop – at something like 13,000 feet. The kids train, and goof around, while watching over Doctora (Nicholson). A Messenger (Wilson Salazar), delivers a milk cow, that they are able to borrow…but must return intact at a future date. Lady (Karen Quintero) and Wolf (Julián Giraldo) consummate their new relationship while the rest of the troop wildly fire their weapons into the air. During the celebration, Dog (Paul Cubides) accidentally kills the cow. Knowing Wolf’s screw up will be met with a horrible punishment, Wolf commits suicide.

The group can’t figure out how to report the cow’s death to the higher-ups via the radio. Should they rat Dog out, and have him be killed too? Or should they cover up for Dog? Eventually they decide to cover up for Dog, and to radio back that Wolf killed the cow, and then killed himself over the mistake. This lie becomes important later on in the movie. When the group contact the higher echelons, Messenger appoints Bigfoot (Moises Arias) as the head of the squadron. And in a compelling moment, Doctora talks on the radio in order to give proof of life to her family members back home.

In our first view of the fighting, Monos’ mountain top base is attacked. Swede (Laura Castrillón) is given the Doctora to watch – at which point she informs the Doctora that if she is attempted to be rescued, she will kill her. The doctor attempts to talk Swede down, and tries to convince her that the two of them can flee together, but it doesn’t work. And in a moment of Stockholm Syndrome, the two share a kiss, but then Swede laughs it off.

After winning the mountaintop battle, Bigfoot moves the group and the Doctora down into the jungle. And putting the group of kids at severe risk, the doctor escapes out into the jungle by following the river. Realizing that they are all dead anyway, Bigfoot declares their group independent, and severely damages the radio. Doctora meanwhile, gets hit by a mudslide and wakes the next day with a severely busted up eye. Soon after, she is recaptured and returned to their camp and chained to a tree by Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura).

Because the radio is trashed, the Messenger returns, in order to check on the Monos. He then orders them to exercise rigorously until they are broken and tired. Messenger then orders the group to admit what is really going on in the group. And, like the Salem witch trials, the group begins turning on one another in rapid succession. Some of the wrongs admitted to by the group:

  • Rambo says that Lady and Bigfoot are sexually engaged without approval.
  • Rambo tells Messenger that Dog is the one that killed the cow.
  • Messenger learns that the Doctora escaped.
  • Smurf (Deiby Rueda) tells that Bigfoot wanted their own independence.

Messenger then decides he’s going to take Bigfoot with him back to their superiors in order to determine what to do. Unfortunately for him though, while peeing off the side of the boat, Bigfoot shoots him in the back and he falls into the river. When Bigfoot gets back to camp he ties Smurf to a tree because of his snitching to Messenger about his desire to break free and establish their own independence. And as a result, Bigfoot takes the Monos rogue, and begins robbing random passing motorists. This section of the film definitely feels like the descent into the heart of darkness.

Eventually, Swede takes the Doctora to bath in the river. Doctora is still chained by the neck as she swims. And eventually Swede joins Doctora in the water. At which point Doctora drowns Swede, breaks the chain, steals boots from Smurf, and then runs out into the jungle.

Monos Movie of the Year 2019 Explained - Monos is one of the most heart wrenchingly difficult, yet exhilarating movies ever made. It really has to be seen to be believed.

The Ending of Monos Explained

This is the bit wherein we enter the proverbial heart of darkness. Using night vision goggles, Rambo attempts to free Smurf, but is stopped by Lady. But Lady allows Rambo to slip off into the night. Eventually, Rambo gets picked up by a diver in the river, who was diving for gold, and is taken back to his house to have dinner with his family. But don’t worry, no good deed goes unpunished in this movie. He’ll get his soon enough.

After dinner, and an extra long sleep, Rambo watches TV with the family. Could Rambo possibly be re-assimilated back into society? Yeah, no. The Monos track Rambo back to the house, and attack the family. The husband and wife are mowed down before they are even given a chance to begin to protect themselves. As Rambo flees out into the jungle again, the TV reports that the Doctora was able to safely escape and was rescued by authorities. As Bigfoot, Dog, and Boom Boom (Sneider Castro), chase after Rambo, Lady menaces the three children who are traumatized after watching their parents get murdered before their eyes. Rambo jumps into the river and everyone gives chase as we watch as the rapids pummel the kids this way and that. Until eventually Rambo washes ashore, and is completely unconscious. A military helicopter arrives and they pick up this unidentified person. And as the helicopter and the military police radio back for guidance what to do, the movie ends as a mortified Rambo cries down the barrel of the camera. Roll credits.

Wait, But What Does the Ending of Monos Mean?

There’s a number of important things going on throughout the ending of the movie. The first is that Doctora is able to escape and make her way back to the authorities who were able to retrieve her. Credit is due to the Doctora’s mettle and resolve. She was able to kill one of her captors and then make her way all the way back to the nearest city. But there is something to be said here about her being a gringo, and that the white people are always able to wiggle out of these kinds of scrapes, only to leave just as the crap is beginning to hit the fan.

The second thing that seems to be worth note here is that Rambo’s attempt at salvation and reintroduction back into society is short lived and nearly fatal. Actually, it is fatal, at least for the parents of the family that took her in. What about the children? Their lives went from a relatively stable home with two loving parents to a life of orphan-hood.

And then, as Rambo is picked up by the military chopper, we see a number of things happening all at once. Rambo is literally a fugitive of the organization fighting against the government. Against the very people that picked Rambo up off the river and have her hostage. As the movie ends, the guy on the radio is repeatedly asking for guidance as to what to do with the child. Think about it…it’s society asking, what do I do with this kid? It’s the government asking, what do we do with this child. More importantly, it’s the military asking, what do we do with this escaped separatist?

The Reason Alejandro Landes Created Monos

In interview after interview, Alejandro Landes constantly tells anyone that will listen, the movie is all about Colombia and the sixty years of chaos that has been happening. It’s about the fact that the allegiances and the factions shift. And when peace plans are drawn up, they dissolve like cotton candy in the rain. It’s a battle unlike World War I or World War II where there were fronts and battle lines. Better yet, the movie is about the children who are caught in the middle of this chaos. Kids that are handed guns, and are expected to guard cows, repulse attacks, and hide abducted Americans. It really is a crime against humanity that the global community is allowing this to continue on like this for so long.

Better yet, this movie is less a movie about Colombia specifically…and more about a global situation where battles without lines and flags seem to be proliferating (promulgating?) around the world. For example Syria. Could it be that this is less about a specific Doctor, and eight specific children? Could it be that this movie is talking about the world’s descent into chaos in varying and unexpected ways? When Julianne Nicholson began asking Alejandro Landes (the writer and director) for the Doctoras’ back story, and her motivations, Landes told her to let all that go. That the movie was more about a fantasy, a myth of descending chaos. Not about a specific country or a specific battle, or a specific moral conflict. But the larger idea.

Personal Thoughts on Monos

Some of the greatest film making of all time were the seeds for the genesis of this movie. Apocalypse Now, Lord of the Flies, Full Metal Jacket. The visual storytelling here is brilliant. Carnal and primitive. The acting is phenomenal, even from these children, many of whom have never acted before in their lives. But I will say that the editing, and the story arc, could have used some extra love. For example, when Doctora kills her captor, and she is still chained to the tree – how does she get free? We have no idea. One cut before it was hopeless. She’d just murdered Swede. And yet, she was impossibly chained. But, you insert a single jump cut, and she’s free. This sort of thing happens throughout the movie. Instead of a murderous rampage against random passing motorists filled with pathos and heart wrenching action, we are given a music video montage. This movie literally had the potential to be listed as one of the greatest films of all time. But for the editing. Don’t get me wrong – I adored this movie. It was lit on fire from the beginning to the end. But instead of being the best movie of 2019, it could be the best movie of the last 50 years. But maybe that was just me. I don’t know. I did love this movie though. What did you think of it?

Edited by: CY