A Film Review by Kimberly Singleton
Kelvin Harrison Jr as Steve Harmon in 'Monster' (Credit: Netflix)
Seventeen-year-old honor student Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison Jr) is aspiring to be a filmmaker. He has a healthy relationship with his family life and school friends from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in New York City. However, it’s not enough to protect him from the trappings of the “streets”. When he befriends neighborhood acquaintance, King (Rakim Mayers a.k.a. A$AP Rocky), Steve gets linked to a robbery that lands him in jail. The robbery results in a store clerk being killed and Steve is labeled as a monster by the prosecutor for his alleged participation in the crime.
During Steve’s trial, this young Black man sits in front of the jury. Do they see him as a human being falsely accused or a monster that helped perpetrate a heinous murder? Steve’s journey is told through his eyes as a filmmaker, communicating his struggles and emotions as if he is reading a script. This provides a digestible perspective on a heartbreaking story that we hear and see too many times.
The film is based on the book by Walter Dean Myers. Told out of sequence, the writers (Radha Blank, Cole Wiley, Janece Shaffer) do an excellent job at interweaving Steve’s painful circumstances and the eloquence of his storytelling to create a seamless narrative.
Jeffrey Wright and Jennifer Hudson play Steve’s parents convincingly portraying grief on seeing their promising son go to jail and helpless at not being able to do more to bring him home. John David Washington (Malcolm & Marie), Nasir “Nas” Jones (Belly), Lovie Simone (Greenleaf) and Jennifer Ehle (The Comey Rule) also deliver stellar performances.
The beauty of family love and the promise of young love make the pain of witnessing another young, African American male stripped of his innocence in an inequitable legal system almost bearable. This movie must be seen to generate discussion that must be continued along with action that must be implemented to save our young Black men.
Directed by Anthony Mandler, “Monster” is now showing on Netflix.