Brexit, the long unfolding saga that proves the USA doesn’t have a monopoly on political insanity, has already provided the inspiration for at least one film genre film Michael Fausti’s Exit. While that film treated it allegorically, Monstrous Disunion tackles it in a more head on fashion. Director Jackson Batchelor (Maniacal) and co-writer Sam Mason-Bell (Lonely Hearts, The Drug Tours) take the bull by the horns, or the Boris by the Johnson, and address the issues directly. Especially the issue of people turning into pigs.
Shot in black and white, Monstrous Disunion takes place on June 23rd, 2016, the day of the vote to stay or leave. Mark (Martin W. Payne, Calling Nurse Meow, I Scream on the Beach!) and his son Pete (Connor Mellish, Fixer) are all for leaving the EU. Daughter Maddie (Jessamie Waldon-Day) who is home from University is opposed, as are her friends Jas (Alexandra Robertshaw, Millennial Killer) and Mikey (Ryan Carter, Conspiracy X). Anne (Janette Evans), the family matriarch, hates talking politics and just wants the vote over with.
Discussion at the dinner table inevitably turns to politics and equally inevitably turns ugly. Even more so as the news begins reporting incidents of people turning into pig-like creatures. In fact, the one that used to be their neighbour Nigel (Simon Berry, Welcome to Hell) is in their yard right now. In the absence of any actual reasons why this is happening, speculation leads to accusations.
Monstrous Disunion mixes Brexit and pandemic politics into a dark look at human nature. Much like Await Further Instructions it takes a British family already split along political and cultural/aspirational lines and subjects it to an unknown threat. And in both films, they take sides and turn on each other based on loyalties and associations that prove stronger than blood ties.
Unlike that film, the characters here don’t need to be intentionally manipulated into it. Their own prejudices and fears combine to give them all the reasons they need to believe the most ridiculous of ideas. In a pointed parallel to the COVID pandemic, this porcine pandemic gives rise to conspiracy theories among the less educated of them. With the same disastrous results for everyone as they act out on them.
Indeed, the EU, or its sympathizers, being behind this out of revenge is slightly more believable than some of the actual conspiracy theories getting passed around social media. In a nice touch, director Batchelor plays the conspiracy vlogger Pete is watching on his tablet. Fellow director Thomas Lee Rutter (Day of the Stranger) provides the voice of Dave, an angry caller to a talk radio program.
The film doesn’t take sides for or against Brexit, and the text at the film’s end makes it clear the criticism is aimed at both sides of the issue. It does however tend to give the opinion that one side is less wrong, or less to blame, than the other. To a degree that feels a bit like a cop-out, but it is more accurate. How you react to the film may depend on whether you agree with them on which side that is.
Running just over an hour, Monstrous Disunion makes its point and gets out before it becomes heavy-handed or boring. It’s a timely look at how polarized society is becoming. It’s set in, and aimed at, the UK. But it’s just as applicable in many other countries, most obviously the USA. And while it may be satirical, the point it makes is a valid one.