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Movies

Review: Healthcare is a ‘Monster’ we can all relate to and fear

‘A Monster With a Thousand Heads’
Jana Raluy in “A Monster With a Thousand Heads.”
(Music Box Films)

Although the title might suggest cheesy sensationalism, “A Monster With a Thousand Heads” serves as a sobering, all-too-relatable indictment of the bureaucratic Hydra that is the medical insurance industry.

When their healthcare provider won’t approve a drug treatment for her cancer-stricken husband because it’s not on their policy’s list of approved medications, the understandably frustrated Sonia (accomplished theater actress Jana Raluy) is driven to desperate measures after encountering shoulder-shrugging indifference at every turn.

While her actions inevitably take her down an increasingly violent spiral, the potentially explosive scenario shares precious little of the heavy-handed histrionics of a “John Q,” the 2002 Denzel Washington emergency-room hostage drama.

Instead, director Rodrigo Plá, armed with a spare, intelligent script adapted by Laura Santullo from her original novel, crafts a remarkably even-handed film that constantly defies thriller conventions, incorporating elements of cinema verité and experimental film while still delivering the requisite amount of tension and crucial viewer empathy.

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Employing some unusual framing through an often static camera, multiple viewpoints and fragmented voice-overs, the Uruguay-born, Mexico-raised Plá and his lead actress, who plays her role with a fierce determination, draws us in to Sonia’s life-or-death dilemma and holds us there for the economical 74-minute duration.

When it comes to striking a universal chord, the necessity for a clear-cut villain and a heart-tugging score (there is no soundtrack to speak of) aren’t always just what the doctor ordered.

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‘A Monster With a Thousand Heads’

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In Spanish with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes

Playing: Nuart Theatre, West L.A.


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