Set in modern Mississippi, MONSTER’S BALL subtly examines the impact of personal loss and the transforming power of human connection. The movie begins in the state penitentiary’s death row, where father-and-son prison guards Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) and Sonny Grotowski (Heath Ledger) administer the execution of a black death-row inmate Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs), who leaves behind a wife, Leticia (Halle Berry), and son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun). When tragedy strikes both Hank’s and Leticia’s children, the two grieving parents are accidentally thrust together, where they begin to find comfort and eventually a form of redemption.
Employing a languid pace and minimalist dialogue, MONSTER’S BALL moves slowly forward on the strength of the cast’s performances (including a supporting turn from Peter Boyle as Hank’s ailing racist father, Buck) and Marc Forster’s understated direction. The complex characters are allowed to develop gradually over the course of the entire movie, making the film a richly satisfying character study.