ImagiNATIVE 2020: Our Review of ‘Monkey Beach’

ImagiNATIVE 2020: Our Review of ‘Monkey Beach’

ImagiNATIVE presents Monkey Beach with Naja, an animation short where a girl runs away from home and roams Kalaalit Nuunat’s fields. Between showing that girl, it shows two light spirits either representing the girl or following her. The visuals don’t tell a clear story between the girl and the spirits, but there’s potential in the short’s OG video game aesthetic.

Monkey Beach is Lorena Todd and two other screenwriters’ adaptation of Eden Robinson’s award winning novel of the same name. It’s about the prodigal daughter of the Haislat nation returning to her reservation. That return means that this prodigal daughter, Lisa Hill (Grace Dove) reconnects with family members. Her brother Jimmy (Joel Oulette) isn’t so little anymore and is dating.

Lisa’s grandmother Ma-ma-oo (Tina Lameman) is looking for something in their oceanfront backyard in the middle of the night. But returning to the Haislat Nation’s territorial lands also mean reliving traumas. There’s little Lisa and Jimmy’s strange encounter in the forest and bittersweet times with their Uncle Mick (Adam Beach), a man who perpetually lives through his dark past.

There are a lot of things that Monkey Beach is trying to sell. Jimmy’s girlfriend is someone everyone calls either Switchblade or Karaoke (Ta’Kaiya Blaney). Lisa and Jimmy explain the nicknames but they don’t land. The dialogue here just does not pop. The same goes for the magic realism angle, which scantly and ineffectively appear during the first two acts.

The magic realism goes into full gear during the third act, where Jimmy is in danger and Lisa either must rescue or communicate with him. It seems like Todd’s strategy here is to slap a filter on her camera and that’s it. I discovered Todd’s earlier documentaries, which ironically has more spiritual than in a movie where spiritual entities exist.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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