In the hot desert monsoon season of Arizona, two best friends have trouble letting go of each other after a tragedy rips them apart. Here is our review of Miguel Duran’s Monsoon.
The opening 11 minutes of Monsoon is so good, so sweet and so real, that the next 90 minutes simply doesn’t have a chance compared to them. Monsoon is both a maddening and deeply moving story that deals with love, loss, grief, and happiness.
As the film opens, we are introduced to infatuated couple John and Sarah – childhood sweethearts and neighbours who, in the middle of the Arizona heat, are in the full throes of young love. They are mapping out their lives together and planning for the future when John, who is leaving for university, returns. Austin Lyon and Katherine Hughes give exceptional performances in these opening scenes as John and Sarah; they have such great chemistry together that they are able to convey true love with a simple look at each other. Lyon, as the vulnerable and infatuated beau, is a great foil to Hughes’ smart, spunky, Phoebe Cates-esque girlfriend. They manage to convince us that they have indeed known each other forever. Also, during this opening and throughout the film, director Duran shows a number of Terence Malick type flourishes where at certain points he will cut to a cactus flower or a swimming pool. Then, as is always the case with these promising beginnings, tragedy occurs. A car accident changes the course of John and Sarah’s lives forever.
After the accident, John, who was driving, becomes consumed by grief. His girl has died, he misses her and her absence is like an open wound. He refuses to leave his room and mopes around the house, becoming deeply depressed. Then Sarah suddenly returns to him. She steps back into his life from beyond the grave. She talks to him, consoles him and loves him. The passion with which he greets her, although low-key, is very genuine. With her back, John feels like nothing has changed and they hang around the house all day, reminisce and chat with each other. For obvious reasons, he keeps her return a secret from his friends and family, who are just happy that he has bounced back from a profound depression into a state of normality and happiness. However, his cranky grandmother (brilliantly played by former Brady Bunch alumni Eve Plumb) has some ideas about what is actually going on.
Things start to get a bit more complicated however when John starts a new job and begins to venture out more. Sarah is constantly with him and sometimes draws his attention away from his real life. During his new job, he meets rebellious firebrand Caitlyn who looks very similar to Sarah, however her wild, free-spirited behaviour is the exact opposite. What begins as a friendship for John becomes more serious as he becomes more attracted to Caitlyn, but as long as Sarah is with him, watching him at every step of the way he will never truly be able to move on.
All of these passages of the movie and the relationships between the characters are convincing, the use of music fits perfectly with the scenes and the story’s setting – Arizona is a beautiful and well framed supporting character.
However, in a plethora of fine performances, it is Caitlyn, played by Yvette Monreal, who is the glue that holds it all together. She ventures into John’s life, falls in love with him and makes him choose between this world and the next. Her character is wild, goofy, charming and, in her own indirect way, leads the movie toward some truths that are pretty profound.
Monsoon is a thoroughly enjoyable movie that is a perfect partner to the likes of Before Sunrise, Truly Madly Deeply and Ghost and would certainly not look out of place on a screen near you.