This weekend will see the premiere of a new Netflix movie Monster which tells the story of a seventeen-year-old honour student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder.
The film follows his dramatic journey from a smart, likeable film student from Harlem attending an elite high school through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison.
It’s a sequence of events we’ve all seen in the news far too many times: a 17-year-old Black boy is arrested for his alleged involvement in a murder he swears he didn’t commit, portrayed by the prosecution as a monster and put on trial.
This is the outline of the story of Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.); But it’s a story we’ve never quite seen like this before—fully exposed and told from the inside out. Is the Harlem honor student Steve, a gifted would-be filmmaker from a loving family, really guilty of a horrific crime?
Has he betrayed his parents, friends, teachers and his own hugely promising future in the blink of an eye? Or is he trapped in a rigged cycle from which kids like him rarely escape? And do the subtleties of the full, truth of his life and dreams even matter if the law doesn’t care about those things?
MONSTER emotionally evokes these questions, and more, as it turns Steve’s journey through the legal maze into a searing inquiry into the very nature of justice—but also a deeply personal quest for a young Black man to reclaim his identity and humanity.
The prosecutor paints him as a monster, his parents see a promising young man, the older guys from the neighborhood with whom he becomes entangled envision a pawn, his film teacher spots an inquisitive artist, and his cellmate sees a good kid thrust into a bad situation. These are the fragmented pieces of Steve’s life, which leads to him trying to piece together his shattered image and integrate those pieces into an authentic representation of his true self.
In his feature film debut, rising director Anthony Mandler forges an extreme interiority that puts you inside something vital to today’s reality: what it’s like to be a bewildered Black teen plucked from everyday life and thrust into the penal system.