Monster (18)

Written and Directed by Patty Jenkins
Picturehouse @ FACT from April 2nd 2004

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Aileen Wuornos was executed by lethal injection on October 15th 2002. Twelve years earlier, she was convicted of murdering six middle-aged men, and was labelled America’s first female serial killer. Tabloid headlines screamed that she was a ‘monster’, but of course such glib pronouncements ignore the fact that killers are people with feelings, hopes and dreams. Based on death row interviews with Wuornos, this biopic tells the story of the woman behind the headlines.

Charlize Theron won the Best Actress Oscar for her stunning portrayal of the “damsel of death”, and the character is on the brink of suicide as we are introduced to her. An escapee from an abusive family, she has become a hard-bitten prostitute who loathes her job and herself. At her lowest ebb, she meets Selby (Christina Ricci), and falls in love. She gains self-respect and a new lease of life, but is assaulted by one of her “johns”, and kills him in "self-defence”. The couple are now on the run, and an increasingly desperate Aileen tries to hook, steal, and kill her way to freedom.

Perhaps because it relies so heavily on Wuornos' testimony, the film seems to suggest that some of her victims deserved to die. But if Wuornos herself was a victim of circumstance, then by definition so were the men who exploited her, and murder is surely by far the worse crime. Despite this major flaw, Monster remains a gripping insight into what drives people to murder and sensitively documents the making of that 'monster'.