Reviewed by: Halyna Barannik
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle, P. Diddy | Directed by: Marc Forster | Produced by: Lee Daniels, Eric Kopeloff, Tom Ortenberg | Written by: Milo Addica, Will Rokos | Distributor: Lions Gate Films
“Monster’s Ball” is actually an X-rated film. The “R” rating is simply indequate… There are explicit scenes of prostitution and sexual activity. This is a difficult movie to review from the Christian point of view. The objectionable scenes almost preclude a review for Christians at all. It has been, however, very well-received by secular critics, for which reason I went, being an avid movie-goer and reviewer and at 56, not particularly impressionable. The movie turned out to have artistic merit in many ways, including direction, screenplay and acting. I can only marginally recommend this movie for those particular reasons and none other.
The story revolves around two people who have suffered losses. Leticia, played by Halle Berry, is a woman whose husband is on death row and is finally executed by electrocution in a painfully graphic scene. She has a pre-teen son for whom she has to provide. Hank, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is the corrections officer who, with his son, played by Heath Ledger, has Leticia’s husband (P. Diddy) put to death.
Leticia and Hank meet by chance, as he helps her with her son. She does not know Hank’s connection to her dead husband. On the other hand, he does know she is the widow of the executed inmate. Therein lies some of the poignancy of their relationship. We surmise that he wants to help her.
But lust is a primary factor, as each reaches out physically to the other one in their individual despair. The nudity was not warranted (is it ever?) and the feelings and thoughts of the characters could have been conveyed without all the visible body parts. The relationship between the two is well-scripted. The screenplay defines their characters clearly. The interaction is well done, not only by Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton, but by all members of the cast.
The movie’s focus is on how people grapple with their circumstances. One of them even states that he feels “stuck.” Stuck in his circumstances, stuck with who he is. This applies to all the dramatis personae of this film, who fulfill their fate, so to speak. There doesn’t seem to be much freedom, and happiness seems to consist of adjusting to one’s circumstances.
As stated before, this movie is unsuitable for the average movie-goer, especially for the Christian because of the nudity and fornication. For those who are fully aware of the nature of this film, and insist on seeing well-reviewed performances, this movie does offer good performances and some interesting points of view on life’s troubles.