Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the crime/drama A MONSTER WITH A THOUSAND HEADS by director Rodrigo Pla. For a general plot description I will turn to the one provided by IMDB:
When her insurance refuses to approve the treatment her husband needs to survive, a woman takes things into her own hands. Up against an unyielding bureaucracy and disinterested workers, she is pushed to her breaking point: with her son in tow, she attempts to fight the system.
I feel I have to make this clear from the get go, though our lead wields a gun throughout, this is not a violent feature. I know that the above description brings to mind images of FALLING DOWN(1993) and JOHN Q (2002), but overall there is nowhere near the level of violence those two films bring to mind. This is not a typical violent vigilante story, but is instead focused firmly on the rigged system the woman is working against and all the red tape she has to go through just to get her husband the medical care he requires to survive.
To make this a bit personal, the ideas here really resonated with me. Last year was a tough year for my wife and I as we lost thousands of dollars when her healthcare plan decided to change what they would cover. Since she is an insulin dependent diabetic, we had no other option but to fork over the money while we waited for open enrollment to begin so she could get on a better plan. Watching this movie brought back memories of the struggle we faced last year as our medical bills burned right through our savings.
Our lead finds himself in an even more dire situation as her husband is at death’s door and denied the very thing he requires to live. What starts as her simple inquiry over the phone as to why he is not covered turns into a journey down the rabbit hole of an uncaring corporation. As we watch her bounce from person to person it becomes clear that this is not a movie about an actual creature, but one that is cleverly shining a light on the hydra like beast that is a modern healthcare company.
This quest works based on the strength of Jana Rulay’s performance. She brings a sincerity to the piece that makes her character easy to relate to even as she becomes more desperate. Even as she starts to break, there is a remorse in her eyes that is hard to describe, but left me feeling as if she was both surprised and saddened by how far she had to push things for any result. This look added a real person feel to her character that made this seem almost like a documentary.
In fact, now that I am thinking on it, this whole feature feels a bit like a documentary. The cinematography itself is restrained with one one memorable trick shot and no crazy special effects. As we wander through the corporate maze, we are treated to audio from a future court case that gives us some insight into how the people saw our lead. In fact, the final shot is a four way split screen of a court room with a trial nearing its conclusion.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the finale as I felt they had a great ending for the characters then added an unnecessary final shot. Now, it is by no means a bad conclusion, it just did not really add anything of note to the picture. In my mind, the actual last scene either needed more time to do it justice, or to be cut completely since they had already wrapped up the emotional core.
All in all, this is a good look at the mechanics of the corporate machine and the gear caught in the middle. The strength of the performances gives this an emotional resonance that makes the cruelty of the system all the more shocking. Those looking for a tight character piece with some good commentary on the pitfalls of corporate healthcare should give this a watch.