Short Film Review: Monkey See (2019)

Monkey See (2019) is a 3-minute short film by Atulit Kwatra and Khomthong Rungsawang, which was selected as part of the Minikino Film Week 2020 under its Love Wins section. The film originated as part of the Purin Pictures Roundtable: 48-Hour Film Challenge that was in conjunction with the Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival and took home the 1st Place award.

The plot of Monkey See sees a young couple, engaging in a discussion as all around them, chaos ensues. However, they seem completely oblivious to it all. Due to the short run time, it would be difficult from this point on to discuss the film without spoiling itso be warned. 

The great debate by the 3-month lovers is played in a continuous moving take, and revolves around Alex confessing his bisexuality to Nat. They both worry about breaking up, first before the confession is made, and then because of it. The conversation itself seems pointless as they flip flop between points and then also make light of the confession. The discussion takes place along a road, where men are also seen shooting one another and running around in the background as if in a gang fight, but the couple seems to notice it not one bit.

In the end, the couple comes to terms with the confession and continue their conversation via social media whilst a news broadcast in the background informs us of civilian casualties after a recent military operation in Algeria. 

The juxtaposition reads as a critique of a younger generation’s obsessionif not pre-occupationwith personal identity, sexuality as well as trends with social mediawhilst seemingly ignoring the so-called more important or critical issues.

Overall it feels somewhat reductive to force audiences to perceive the young couple as ignorant or apathetic to international or national politics. It also appears to take a pot shot at the immensely political issues of self-identity, sexuality, as well as the powerful role social media has played in many major political movements today. 

Admittedly, it would be hard to be more nuanced in such a short 3-minute duration and the film’s draw does come largely from its simplicity. It draws you in with a familiar lover’s premise, an initial shock value of violence and shallow queer politics, and attempts to keep you interested through its technical feat of a choreographed long take. Though none of these elements crescendos satisfactorily to anything of note on its own nor as a sum of its parts, Monkey See is a visually polished work that does end once its points has been made.

Written by Rifyal Giffari

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