A great plot and superb acting make it easy to see why Roger Ebert called Monster's Ball "the best film of the year."
This film tackles the issue of prejudice while showing that people need each other, regardless of their races or personal histories.
The plot, set in the rural deep south, is about a white man (Billy Bob Thornton) who is brought together with a black woman (Halle Berry) through a series of ill-fated events.
Thornton's character Hank Grotowski is an unmarried corrections officer who has lived with his openly racist and wretched father for years. Sonny, Hank's son (Heath Ledger), lives with his father and grandfather. But unlike his father, Sonny is friendly and has a gentle heart that has not been hardened by his family's negativity.
Racial tension is evident as soon as the film opens, with Hank and his father having a typical conversation filled with pessimism and bigotry. His father looks out a window and sees a black neighbor's boys running through his yard. The elder Mr. Grotowski complains that they "don't know their place" and orders Hank to get rid of the "little porch monkeys."
The film's beginning is purposely vague and ambiguous, creating suspense and capturing the attention of the audience. As the storyline creeps its way into a plot, the tension builds.
At work, Sonny and Hank are faced with the grim duty of having to execute a man they have come to know well (Sean Combs). Berry's character Leticia is the distraught wife of the man who will be executed. Leticia and her son say their tragic last goodbyes and continue on their way home.
Berry's performance is superb and has garnered her an Oscar nomination for "Best Actress." She plays a hardworking and unassuming single mother, working as a waitress at a local diner, where she serves Hank his usual chocolate ice cream and unsweetened coffee.
When a tragedy brings Leticia and Hank together, the beginning of Hank's transformation is triggered. Thornton brilliantly slips into his new role as a man free of his hatred and forever changed by fate. The grouchy, hateful, corrections officer is replaced by a kinder, more thoughtful, relaxed man who makes every effort to be a better person.
Rating: A