Monster's Ball (2001) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Set in the Southern United States, 'Monster's Ball' is a tale of a racist white man, Hank, who falls in love with a black woman named Leticia. Ironically Hank is a prison guard working on Death Row who executed Leticia's husband. Hank and Leticia's interracial affair leads to confusion and new ideas for the two unlikely lovers.

  • Hank Grotowski is a prison guard whose son, who works on the prison's death row, commits suicide. Grotowski spirals into depression until one night he helps Leticia Musgrove's injured son. When he dies, the couple are united by grief, but as their relationship develops, he learns he and his son were party to the execution of her husband.

  • Hank Grotowski is a prison guard. He works with his son, Sonny, and lives at home with his racist father, Buck. Lawrence Musgrove has just been executed and a horrible tragedy has happened at home. Now, Hank has just met Leticia, a young black woman struggling to make ends meet and they quickly fall in love to ease each other's pains. If only he knew that Leticia is Musgrove's widow...

  • After a family tragedy, a racist prison guard reexamines his attitudes while falling in love with the African American wife of the last prisoner he executed.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), a widower, and his son, Sonny (Heath Ledger), are correctional officers in the local prison. They reside in Louisiana with Hank's ailing father, Buck (Peter Boyle), an unwavering racist whose wife had committed suicide. Hank's hateful attitude towards others, strongly influenced by his father Buck, results in Hank's hatred of his father, his son, and members of the neighboring community.

    As Hank and Sonny assist in the execution of convicted murderer Lawrence Musgrove (Sean "Diddy" Combs), the proceedings prove too intense for Sonny, who begins to vomit as he is leading Lawrence to the electric chair. Some time later, Hank drags Sonny out of bed and tells him to get out of the house. Unable to cope with the estrangement, Sonny grabs a gun. The confrontation ends in their living room with Hank at gunpoint, lying on the carpet, and Sonny in his grandfather's customary chair. Sonny asks his father, "You hate me, don't you?" After his father calmly confirms that he does and says he always has, Sonny responds, "Well, I always loved you," and then kills himself. Hank subsequently buries his son, quits his job at the prison, burns his uniform in the backyard, and locks the door of Sonny's room up tightly. Buck calls him a quitter.

    During the years of Lawrence's imprisonment, his wife, Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry), has been struggling while raising their son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun). The boy, who inherited his father's artistic talent, is also morbidly obese. Along with her domestic problems, she also struggles financially, leading to the loss of the family car and more seriously, an eviction notice on her house. In desperate need of money, Leticia becomes employed at a diner frequented by Hank. One rainy night, Leticia and Tyrell are walking down a rain-soaked highway when the boy is struck by a car. Leticia is left helpless on the side of the road, grasping her son and calling out to passing motorists, although no one stops to help.

    Hank happens to be driving along, however, and sees Leticia, cradling her mortally injured son. He initially drives by as well, but goes back to pick them up, driving them to a hospital. Tyrell dies upon arrival, and Hank lends his shoulder for Leticia to cry on. At the suggestion of the authorities at the hospital he drives her home. They have a lot in common, as they both lost sons but they don't find that out until later. Some time later on Hank gives Leticia a ride home from the diner and after they begin talking in the car and find out about their common losses, she invites him in and they drown their grief with alcohol.They begin a relationship, which is initially based on sex and relief from loneliness but later becomes emotionally supportive. Hank finds out that Leticia is Lawrence's widow, but he does not tell her that he participated in her husband's execution.

    Leticia stops by Hank's home with a present for him. Hank is not home, but Buck is. Buck insults Leticia using raw racist language and implying that Hank is only involved with her because he wants to have sex with a black woman. She responds by rejecting Hank. This incident proves to be the last straw for Hank and he decides to send his father to a nursing home and it is implied that Hank will cut him out of his life as well.

    Leticia is evicted from her home for non-payment of the rent and Hank invites her to move in with him. She agrees.

    Leticia discovers Hank's involvement in her husband's death while he is gone but is there waiting for him when he returns from town with ice cream. At first she looks dazed but gradually she seems to cheer up. As they sit on the porch, eating ice cream and gazing up at the stars, Hank says, "I think we're going to be all right."

    Leticia smiles, acknowledges the transition and new care and love but does not reply.

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