Monster’s Ball (2001)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

USA, 2001, .  Screenplay by , .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 2001American Film Institute Awards 2001.   Golden Globe Awards 2001Independent Spirit Awards 2001. National Board of Review Awards 2001Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2001.  

Fantastic film by Marc Forster about a death row prison warden (Billy Bob Thornton) caught in a cycle of hatred that has been passed down by his racist father () and is now being soaked up in the most negative way by his sensitive son (Heath Ledger). After a personal tragedy and a very rough assignment accompanying a murderer () to his execution, Thornton quits his job and buys a gas station, in the meantime befriending a lonely woman (a stultifyingly good Halle Berry) who is also the wife of the executed criminal. The title comes from the party that prison wardens put on for death row inmates the night before their execution, and for Thornton’s characters the many conflicts and connections that happen in this film are all a part of this monster’s ball, something that can only exist in a world of madness that he finds himself in. The film reaches an intimacy so very personal and frightening that you might feel almost uncomfortable, particularly a controversial love scene where the two leads take out their grief on each other in a physical form and try to separate themselves from their sadness (Canadian audiences have it uncut, American theatres are playing a less explicit version). Fantastic performances by all, most notably Berry, a brilliant screenplay and all around an unforgettable viewing experience.

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