It is a fact that Halle Berry became the first woman of colour to win Best Actress for her role in the 2001 film Monster’s Ball, and it was very well deserved. Not only was her beauty stripped down to the bare minimum, but she had to be pretend to be attracted to Billy Bob Thornton, so I deem that acting triumph alone worthy of every accolade she received.
This movie was raw and almost too emotionally draining, but the ongoing prejudice and habitual dolor that dwells within each character is necessary. They serve as a reminder that everyone struggles with personal demons, relaying the message that perseverance, hope, love, and forgiveness can move you over that intangible horizon. We all realize sooner or later that this seemingly impossible barrier is merely an abstract creation of the mind, which recedes as you approach it.
I found the performances of the two sons to be the most moving in the film. Heath Ledger, who played Thornton’s son, and Coronji Calhoun who played Berry’s son. Both felt neglected, lonely, and unloved by their parents. All they wanted was to be acknowledged and approved by them, and maybe if they were they would not have suffered the same fate. I was thoroughly impressed with Calhoun’s performance, considering he was merely a fourth grader with no acting experience prior to shooting this film. The innocence of his youth and the fragility of his spirit captured in close-ups of his tranquil eyes demonstrated a natural ability to perform and relay the unrequited love both he and Ledger felt. Though their dialogue was limited, their natural goodness and naive impression of the world around them was captured in their search for acceptance; Ledger looking for it with les filles de joie and Calhoun with chocolate.
What I enjoyed most about the narrative structure of this film was that there was no dwelling on tragedy. A horrific event would occur, you would momentarily be stung by the pain, and then you move on with the characters. Much like real life, living in the past will only prolong grief and Berry’s character epitomize’s this lesson at the end of the film when she realizes her new beau was present at the execution of her husband. To persevere through all the heart-ache encountered in this film seems almost unrealistic to an extent, but one can only hope that it is feasible.