Monos (2019). Directed by Alejandro Landes. Thursday (30/9), 23:25, Film4. Rent from Rakuten (cheapest), Amazon, Google, YouTube, BFI Player and Curzon. Buy from Amazon, Google, Sky Store, YouTube and Rakuten.

With echoes of Lord of the Flies (1963) and Apocalypse Now (1979), Monos follows a group of child soldiers, the Monos, in the Colombian mountains as they guard their ‘prisoner of war’, Doctora, an American engineer. Elsewhere, an unnamed war carries on. The group have first names such as Rambo, Wolf and Bigfoot, like some curious offshoot of American pop culture. They are essentially kids with assault weapons, and with only occasional bouts of discipline and instruction from their adult superior The Messenger (Wilson Salazar) and nothing else to do, they experiment with drugs, relationships and rituals, learning about themselves and maturity in the most extreme circumstances imaginable. But this can only lead one way.

Following a successful military engagement, the group relocates to the jungle, where their only link to HQ remains the radio, but even this is trashed by Bigfoot after an escape attempt by Doctora (Julianne Nicholson, playing probably the most sympathetic character in the piece). The group has gone rogue by this point and is only reined briefly in when The Messenger reappears and they are invited to inform on each other. The androgynous Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura), whose brother Wolf committed suicide earlier, does make a break for it and we are left wondering what her fate is likely to be in the hands of government forces.

Familiarity and strangeness combine in Alejandro Landes’ extraordinary third film, which won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award at Sundance in 2019. The haunting visuals by Jasper Wolf are complemented by Mica Levi’s searing score or soundscape. The cast is mainly non-professional but the results are undeniably memorable.

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