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Review: Monsoon

Monsoon

I’ve sat through countless films this year which are terrifyingly inarticulate, depressive, and pseudo-inert. In a landscape of meaningless art, it is a joyous occasion (a near miracle) to watch a filmmaker take precision with their film, and for director Miguel Duran, the results are ferocious, compelling, and at times, emotionally overwhelming. Not only is “Monsoon” one of the best of this year, it would be the best of any given year. 

John and Sarah (Austin Lyon and Katherine Hughes, respectively), are childhood best friends, excited about where life is about to take them. One day the question arises regarding why they never were a couple. Before long, the sense of cupidity cause them to act on these feelings. We know this won’t last; as in all great tragedies, they are separated by a sudden death. In this case, it’s Sarah, who is the victim of a terrifying car accident. John is left lifeless, a balloon of a human, floating aimlessly throughout the days. Much to the dismay of his parents, he takes a year off college, opting instead for a job in a local warehouse. It’s there he meets Caitlyn (Yvette Monreal), a young woman with her own issues who befriends John. Through his new friend, John begins to break out of his shell – very slowly. Slowly because, nearly every moment of every day, the spirit of Sarah follows him, talking to him, and quite often, judging his decisions.

Unlike a David Lynch film, where we’re not always sure whether we’re in the real world or the in the character’s head, “Monsoon” tells us right up front that we’re in the real world, with Caitlyn responding to what appears to be John talking to himself, although we know otherwise. John is moody and self-pitying, but the film brings you close to a character who could easily be one-note; it’s a tough line to walk, but Duran does it impeccably. Caitlyn is drawn to John’s state of mind; she’s able to recognize another broken soul, following because it’s initially comfortable, before evolving into something more complicated. “Monsoon” becomes a love triangle, the only difference is a character who is unaware that the third party is deceased.

This could be the makings of a farce, and there are measures of comedic ingredients from the scenario, from watching John juggle and explain what’s going on when Sarah can clearly see (which dictates her jealousy). There’s a dash of Bergman mixed with a splash of Dickens, evident in how familiar and relaxed the film is with characters on this tortured island. The desolation of the Arizona landscape informs the character’s isolation. Intensely empty roads is the kindle that reflects John’s lack of direction. The flame is a crude flatness, so much so that it begins to resemble purgatory, which Duran uses to great effect. 

The dialogue is low and intentionally awkward, like watching someone learn to communicate all over again. Lyon must have read the script and jumped for joy. He’s able to convey the pain of loss and anyone who has been through such an experience will relate all-too-well to the performance. His gaze is unfocused, his posture slack and shambling. There’s a heavy guilt which digs into futility (as he was the one in the driver’s seat when the accident happened). 

Eve Plumb, most known as Jan from “The Brady Bunch,” plays John’s grandmother, who threatens to steal the show. She’s a somewhat manic chatterbox who isn’t afraid to spread her wisdom to anyone who will listen. Her relationship with John is undeniably charming, transforming from a nuisance to a close friend to John.  

Monreal’s Caitlyn appears one-note in the beginning. She’s demanding, needy, and hasty, but she’s also smart, and her fierce directness acts as a counter to John’s lethargic rhythm. Monreal is tough and proud, someone who refuses to allow their insecurities to best them. 

I was deeply moved by “Monsoon.” It’s full of devastating certainties that shines a light on the poignancy of time. Duran’s layered writing and directing wrings more than enough meaning, making it a rare and important film.

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I never stand in front of the elevator doors when they open. All because of the movie The Departed.

1 Response to “Review: Monsoon”


  1. Kiara

    I thought this was a different movie for a second, but this one sounds fun