Director: Antony Petrou
Cast: Leeshon Alexander, Aymen Hamdouchi, Doug Allen
Watch We Are Monster online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Produced by Noel Clarke, this low-budget British drama is based on the tragic story of Asian teenager Zahid Mubarek (Aymen Hamdouchi), who was murdered by his disturbed, racist cellmate, Robert Stewart (screenwriter Leeshon Alexander), in Feltham Young Offenders Institution in 2000.
Opening with the murder, the film flashes back to reveal the events leading up to the tragedy. Hamdouchi plays Mubarek as a happy-go-lucky, friendly teenager, who’s been arrested for stealing razor blades. It’s immediately apparent that his cellmate is severely mentally disturbed, yet the authorities apparently turn a blind eye to both Stewart’s mental disorder and his racism (“I’m sure they’ll be fast friends in no time,” quips one of the guards).
Unfortunately, the film-makers take an ill-conceived narrative approach that fails to pay off and back-fires considerably. Rather than concentrate on Mubarek’s story, Alexander’s script chooses to get inside the head of Stewart, to try and understand the mind of the killer. This is dramatised by having Alexander play his own alter-ego, continually standing over him and hectoring him with racist invective. As a result, he’s in nearly every scene and the audience is bombarded with hate-filled dialogue for close to the film’s entire running time.
On top of that, Alexander’s acting technique isn’t exactly subtle, so the overall effect is like watching someone audition, badly, for the part of Foul-mouthed Racist. For an hour and a half.
The film’s central narrative decision wouldn’t be so bad, if there was actually any substance to it, but by the end of the film you’re no closer to understanding Stewart than you were at the beginning, aside from the revelation that he was abused by a racist father as a child. In addition, the narrative focus makes you question whether the film-makers’ intention is to somehow generate sympathy for Stewart. Either way, the lack of balance between Alexander and Hamdouchi’s performances is a severe mis-step.
Ultimately, We Are Monster is a well-intentioned but poorly conceived drama that’s let down by heavy-handed direction and a trying-too-hard central performance from Alexander.
We Are Monster is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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