Monster (2023) Cannes winner Ending Explained – who is the monster?

Monster (2023) Plot Summary

Now streaming on Prime, Apple TV and Vudu, there’s a reason Monster won Best Screenplay at Cannes. The entire film shows us by example just how quickly we jump to conclusions. The kind of reaction we use in panic mode because what could unsettle more thoroughly than something disturbing going on with children?

Monster is a story in three parts beginning with single mother Saori who can see something is happening with her kid. But no matter who she asks – her son, his friend, their teacher, the school principal – she just can’t get to the bottom of it. Her panic is palpable with each odd discovery. From her side, there’s a new weird thing on the daily. Her 11-year-old son chops his own hair, comes home with only one shoe and questions whether his brain was switched with that of a pig. He tumbles himself out of her moving car. 

When Minato confirms the problem is his teacher, she immediately contacts the school. But instead of explanations, solutions or even sympathy she gets blind, even insensible apologies. Nothing in the least reassuring. Not gaining any insight or comfort, she has no choice but to escalate things. No mother would feel comfortable with this situation, coupled with the things she’s been hearing about that teacher. Why is the school protecting him instead of her pre-teen kid?

What’s happening at the school?

A number of things, including the teacher, Mr Hori, trying to protect Minato from having bullying put on his school record – something that would prevent other schools from accepting him and taint him for life. 

Where does the ‘pig’s brain’ idea come from?

Follow the rabbit hole to see that it’s Yori’s father that claims his son has a pig’s brain. Minato makes the assumption that if he likes him and is like him, he must have a pig’s brain too. He’s a kid – he can’t help spinning the idea.

What’s up with the hair cutting?

Early in their friendship, Yori strokes Minato’s hair which gains an unexpected reaction. As Minato grapples with those feelings, he chops his hair to get rid of them.

Who started the fire?

There’s an indication that Yori started the fire because his father was in the building, likely with a woman at a ‘hostess’ bar.

What does the music room scene symbolize?

If you’re listening, you’ll catch the sound in every chapter of the story. It’s the frustration of feeling trapped and misunderstood. In an interview with Director Hirokazu Kore-eda, he describes it as the entire narrative delivered through the sound of an instrument.

How does it end?

When the storm ends, presumably after being found by Saori and Mr. Hori, the boys scamper off into the sunshine to play another day. They survived the ‘Big Crunch’ after all.

Who or what is the monster?

Is it the real class bullies? Yori’s father? Society? Assumptive characters? Arguably, almost everyone plays a role. In an interview with Hirokazu Kore-eda, he talks about the boys being pushed into a corner. Of the story’s intended take-away, he notes that we, as viewers, should look to ourselves. What did we presume?


Read More: Monster (2023) movie review | Monster Director Hirokazu Kore-eda interview

Have you watched Monster? Who or what feels like the monster to you? Click for more film festival stories, Japanese content, or interviews.


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