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Review: “A Monster with a Thousand Heads” Cuts Right to the Chase

    By Marc Peraino. September 24, 2016 - 9:46 pm


Mexican film is one of those best kept secrets that deserves more attention than it receives. When I came across “A Monster with a Thousand Heads” (Un Monstruo de Mil Cabezas) on Vudu, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I knew this film would not only offer a refreshing change-of-pace from big budget Hollywood, but would also tell a compelling story that many in our modern world can sympathize with, and I was not disappointed.

Sonia (Jana Raluy) is the wife of Memo (Daniel Cubillo) and mother to their teenage son Dario (Sebastián Aguirre). Memo is sick with cancer, and after a frightening night when Memo’s health takes a turn for the worse, Sonia is anxious to see her husband’s supervising physician, Dr. Villalba (Hugo Albores).

They have an appointment scheduled in a couple months, but Memo’s health is in critical condition and needs urgent care. On top of that, their health insurance provider, Alta Salud, has denied their request for medication that could potentially save Memo’s life.monster_4

Desperate to get the help that they need, Sonia, along with her son Dario, visits Alta Salud in person, demanding to see Dr. Villalba. However, the doctor isn’t in the mood for an unscheduled visit and slips out of the office to head home, ignoring Sonia. What he doesn’t realize is that Sonia and Dario catch a taxi and follow him to his house, where she confronts him face-to-face. The doctor is annoyed, but Sonia is adamant that he should help her husband. She won’t leave until he does.

In the blink of an eye, the tension inherent within the film skyrockets and Sonia and Dario find themselves in a situation that quickly spirals out of control.

Directed by Rodrigo Plá and written by Uruguayan author Laura Santullo, “A Monster with a Thousand Heads” tells a riveting story that many in America can relate to. The insufferable bureaucracy of the health insurance industry and the disparaging divide between business and human lives is played out in a very concise, natural and sympathetic manner. The film even employs a simple yet meaningful touch of dark humor to great effect.

With a run time of only 74 minutes, the movie is significantly shorter than most films seen on the big screen. This is a fantastic example of the art of editing and eliminating everything that isn’t essential to the plot and the message, which in turn creates a much more forceful story that doesn’t fail to hit its mark. It’s a welcome break from the mind-numbing 150 minutes spent watching superheroes fight each other.

monster_5Foreign is good. I’ve heard many people complain about foreign films and squirm in their seats because nothing on screen looks familiar. We may find comfort in the familiar, but as Hollywood continues to demonstrate with its big budget films, following a well-worn trail can become a quick route to boredom and mediocrity.

When we venture to watch a foreign film, not only is it a refreshing change-of-pace, but could be a discovery to something we can all understand, a shared experience that crosses geographical and linguistic boundaries. While we in the U.S. struggle with the state of our healthcare, it’s a strange sort of relief to learn that our neighbors below our southern border have experienced some of the same issues. We’re not so foreign to each other after all.

Marc Peraino reviews TV shows and movies for Kalamalama.

Photos courtesy of Music Box Films.