We Are Monster

Director: Anthony Petrou (2015)

Based on a true crime, this slow-burning psychological drama explores the build-up to a brutal prison murder.

Due to failings in a famously not-fit-for-purpose criminal justice system, petty thief Zahid Mubarek (Aymen Hamdouchi) is forced to share a cell in Feltham Young Offenders Institute with known violent racist Robert Stewart (Leeshon Alexander).

As the system sleepwalks a tragedy unfolds with horrific consequences; the result of missing personal files, reports un-actioned and pleas to be rehoused in a different cell ignored.

A weak mental state is exacerbated through the indifference of officers charged with the welfare of inmates.

Isolation breeds Stewart’s paranoia, fear and anger at the perceived injustices of his circumstances.

He is increasingly lost in a world of literal and metaphorical shadows as his psychological dark side envelopes him.

There’s domestic violence, self-harm, bullying and strong language.

This is a confidently hypnotic film with strong cinematography by Simon Richards who delivers excellently framed shot composition and masterful control of light.

Fred Portelli provides the music and helps create a bewildering soundscape of unsettling noises that help create an atmosphere of alienation.

By offering a sympathetic light on the troubled personal history of Stewart, the horror of what happens to his cellmate Mubarek is undermined, making him a minor character in his own murder.