Review: Son of Monarchs (Sundance 2021)


Title: Son of Monarchs
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Alexis Gambis
Starring: Tenoch Huerta, William Mapother, Paulina Gaitan
Runtime: 1 hr 37 mins

What It Is: Mendel (Huerta) is a biologist who returns to his small hometown in Mexico for his beloved grandmother’s funeral. Confronted by memories of his childhood, Mendel is forced to face his shortcomings enabled by a tragedy that took his and his brother Simon’s parents. He continues to explore new perspectives and findings in parallel with his work in the midst of a new relationship and the effort to discover why butterfly wings are the color they are.

What We Think: This film had just the right timing, dialogue, and visuals that keep you interested throughout its duration. It is something that feels akin to a stream-of-consciousness as we follow Mendel’s thought process and emotional journey in succeeding the pain from his losses and see his eventual effort to grow. The acting is naturalistic with a talented cast of all ages; Huerta brings great realism and honesty to a pragmatic character. There’s attention to detail when it comes to ensuring the humanity of the performances and the poetic visuals, solidifying the loving and personal tone of the film as we explore all aspects of Mendel’s world. The writing as a whole is solid with some wonderful lines such as “this land belongs to no one,” though it can become repetitive in the case of lines like these or certain plot points. Later on in the second act and early in the third did it feel a little cumbersome in maintaining interest. Even still, I appreciate many of the things that were covered without being too on-the-nose, included themes of separation (within oneself and in the context of America as a country), self-sabotaging, and the constructive or destructive nature of humans.

Our Grade: C+, Yet another slow-burning, slice-of-life thought piece presented by Sundance, Son of Monarchs is a much more meditative encounter with consistent pacing and great honesty about how things that haunt us can continue to hold us back if we do not actively decide to face them once and for all. While the movie may take itself a little too seriously despite its many happy occurrences as well (I’m namely pointing the finger at the soundtrack, which was nice but tonally heavy-handed), it has much to offer anyone who feels lost between worlds and within themselves.

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