It’s primarily a sensory experience. Monos follows a team of teenaged guerrilla soldiers somewhere in South America, but we’re told nothing about them. Instead, we’re embedded with them—we watch them squabble and laugh and wrestle in the dirt; we see them try to keep warm at night; we see them fire off their rifles in the morning, maybe to prove to themselves they’re still alive. Directed by Colombian-Ecuadorian filmmaker Alejandro Landes, the movie is split in two halves. The first takes place on top of a cloud-shrouded mountain, amid abandoned structures of concrete and rebar. It’s a gorgeous, forbidding place, and most of the film’s pleasures come from the lustrous scenery paired with the minimal power of composer Mica Levi’s score. The second half of Monos is a descent into the jungle, a claustrophobically verdant maze of mud, leaves, and rivers swollen with rain. By now the team has begun to fray, although their mission and their individual desires are never fully articulated. That lack of specificity hurts Monos: The hypnotic first half simply doesn’t give the audience enough to latch onto, and the abstraction of the plot doesn’t propel one’s interest toward the finish line.

by Ned Lannamann
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Alejandro Landes
Julianne Nicholson, Moises Arias, Sofia Buenaventura