There is a bevvy of post-apocalypse films, with humankind doing their best for survival. Some of them are good, some not-so-good, while the others excessively bad. It is one of the assuring genres where the filmmakers and the producers are certain of returns, and the audience perpetually ready to savour it as comfort food. Love and Monsters is a new leaf from the same tree; however, in the top-tier of films, which provides plenty of refreshing ingredients and a whole lot of heart to nurture your interest in the genre.
In a much different, however, fascinating scenario – humankind is shown to be struggling from a mutated race of cold-blooded animals. These are ectotherms as big as a house and hence, nth times transfixing and shuddering. If you’ve entomophobia or you get easily freaked out by insects – Love and Monsters will scare the daylights out of you.
Though frightening and tough on the eyes, the art behind them is delightful. This is an artistically excellent film, with a variety of creative elements to appreciate. The differentiation between the mutated animals is marvellous, and each of their encounters feels continually intense and original.
As a young adult, I have had various what-if discussion, which includes imagining the scenarios where lizards or spiders or even an ant is of the size of a dinosaur. Love and Monsters fulfils this imagination and treads even more by emphasizing the critical problem – what will be the odds of us surviving such a situation?
Brian Duffield’s story provides decent rationality in answering this question. Human beings no longer live on the surface, for they don’t have the upper hand. Seeing people hide in bunkers, fearing to step out is pretty ongoing, and hence, enhances the experience.
The story is centred on Dylan O’Brien’s character, Joel, who jocularly explains what happened to the world. He tells us 95% of Earth’s humanity is toast, and whosever surviving is compelled to take shed.
In a brief flashback scene, we learn of his girlfriend, Aimee (Jessica Henwick, recently seen in On the Rocks), and how they parted ways during the first ectothermic attack. It has been seven years since Joel hasn’t seen Aimee, and he hasn’t stepped out of the bunker. He feels like a liability to his bunker-family, who usually have to safeguard him from the threats, as he forcibly follows them in the supply runs, unwilling to accept he lacks the right guts to face the outside world.
Feeling left out, and alone, he manages to find Aimee through radio and upon learning, she is 85-miles away from his shed, he decides to level with his fears and be with the person he loves.
I hadn’t seen any trailer for this film, nor did I read anything about it on the Internet. Hence, I was astonished by the writing. Despite a seemingly predictable narrative of a boy willing to reunite with the girl he loves, Love and Monsters has some brilliant surprises. Given the apocalyptic setting, Joel’s journey feels like a proper journey, sans any lags or boredom.
Such films usually reach a point where the pace slows down to permeate some epicity. This film never slows down. There is something unexpected at every interval, and it keeps you captivated.
I expected Joel’s journey to be solo, with him eventually triumphing his fears. Alternatively, he finds a few companions. Firstly, an adorable dog called Boy (extremely well-trained for performance), Yondu Udonta (or simply Michael Rooker), a scene-stealing kid, Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), and a Humanoid called Mav1s, which happens to be one of the most empathetic and conducive robots in cinema.
It is admirable how a good mix of characters are subtly included in the narrative, and none of them feels forcibly inserted. Each of the said characters drives the story forward. The robot, effectively, justifies the films somewhat futuristic setting, and it seems believable.
There are a variety of takeaways from the story, which are best left unspoiled for you. And they make the film emotionally riveting. The final act, which remains unexpected, has a pleasant twist, and it provides a fitting closure to Joel’s evolution. The ending hints at a sequel, which I feel will be needless, considering this film works because of its originality.
Dylan O’Brien is excellent as Joel. Despite playing a somewhat similar character in The Maze Runner trilogy, he brings a substantial newness to his role. He astonishes in the action sequences, provided he had a bad injury during the filming of Death Cure. And he impresses even more in the emotional bits.
From his first encounter with a giant ant in the opening minutes, you begin to feel for him. His character is deeply affected by the horrors of his past and hasn’t moved on from what he lost. O’Brien is super-expressive in those scenes. You can feel his terror when he confronts the monsters. Whether it is him running from a Sand-Gobbler or facing a mammoth centipede, you remain on the edge of your seat, hoping he doesn’t get eaten.
It is a brilliant performance, which is further enriched by the humour and O’Brien’s sly dialogue delivery. He plays a 24-years old character, and he feels the same. Praise to Marco Beltrami, and Marcus Trumpp’s score, too, which sounds refreshing and heartfelt when needed.
Jessica Henwick as Aimee is also memorable. Without spoiling, I can say her character impresses a lot with surprising deviations during the final act. Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt get the loveliest segment of the film. Both the actors give earnest performances, and if a sequel actually gets made, I will see it for them.
The actors who play the survivors accompanying Joel in his bunker are also very well cast. Besides Joel’s romantic angle, I dug the side-plot of family bonding, and each of those actors did excellent work.
Love and Monsters is only the second directorial of Michael Matthews, and the way he has helmed it, provided it’s produced on a restricted budget, is pretty awesome. It is a refreshing entry to the post-apocalyptic genre, which has plenty of heart and satisfying monster-action. 2020 has been scarce for new films. With this regard, it is easily one of the best experiences, unfortunately, dumped as a VOD release, otherwise could have been a wholly satisfying theatre viewing.
Enjoy it with your family. Its a clean family film, with a great dose of entertainment and some good life-lessons.
Rating: 4 / 5
I have purposely avoided embedding the trailer of Love and Monsters. If you haven’t watched the trailer, its best, you directly watch the film for maximum enjoyment.