Film Review: Love And Monsters

DIRECTED BY

Michael Matthews

STARRING

Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Ariana Greenblatt, Dan Ewing, Ellen Hollman, Tre Hale, Pacharo Mzembe, Senie Priti, Amali Golden, Melanie Zanetti, Bruce Spence, Donnie Baxter and Andrew Buchanan

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SYNOPSIS

In a monster-infested world, Joel learns his girlfriend is just 85 miles away. To make the dangerous journey, Joel discovers his inner hero to be with the girl of his dreams.

Film Review of Love and Monsters - Ariana Greenblatt as Minnow and Michael Rooker as Cylde Dutton

Seven years after the Monsterpocalypse, Joel Dawson, along with the rest of humanity, has been living underground ever since giant creatures took control of the land. After reconnecting over radio with his high school girlfriend Aimee, who is now 80 miles away at a coastal colony, Joel begins to fall for her again. As Joel realises that there’s nothing left for him underground, he decides against all logic to venture out to Aimee, despite all the dangerous monsters that stand in his way.

Film Review of Love and Monsters - Jessica Henwick as Aimee and Dylan O'Brien as Joe Dawson

Love and Monsters is a post-apocalyptic monster comedy written by Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson, and directed by Michael Matthews. With an asteroid heading directly towards Earth, humanity came together and launched missiles to destroy it and save the planet. However the destruction  of the asteroid led to the chemical fallout causing all cold-blooded animals, from insects to fish, to mutate into large, aggressive monsters. Seven years after the start date of monsters taking over the planet, Joel Dawson resides in one of the many bunkers across the country as the remaining humans now live underground. After reconnecting with his high school girlfriend, Aimee, over the radio, he decides to go above ground and travel to her colony which is about eighty-five miles away on the west coast, despite his questionable survival skills.

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Originally released six months ago in the U.S and Canada, Love and Monsters has finally made its way to this side of the Atlantic via Netflix. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the film, as I’ve done my best to avoid having details of it spoiled for me particularly on social media. With a rather decent, not extravagant, studio budget compared to a recent monster film (Godzilla vs. Kong), I found the film to be creative in how it portrays the origins behind the mutant monsters (a well done narration over creative sketch animation) as well as the designs of the monsters themselves. The visual effects for the monsters are very well done, as are the effects for the various environments in the film, be it electric towers covered in green, to monster nests that exist either off in the distance or on the edges of cliffs. Even within the post-apocalyptic landscape, the film manages to strike the balance of being a fun adventure and feeling a sense of dread and tension whenever Joel finds himself in a precarious situation. The screenplay from Duffield and Robinson is humourous an light-hearted in its approach, such as the narration about the apocalypse in the opening sequence, tongue-in-cheek taking digs at apocalyptic films that came before (“Yep, an asteroid heading straight for Earth. I know. So obvious”). One of the films key strengths is having the audience follow the journey and transformation of Joel Dawson, played by Dylan O’Brien. Dylan O’Brien gives a really good, charming performance as the likeable and timid Joel, whose trauma during the beginning of the apocalypse has led to him freezing on the spot in moments of peril and how over the course of the film he begins to overcome his insecurities whenever he comes across two fellow survivors, Clyde Dutton and Minnow, on his travels.

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With the limited screentime that they have, I really liked Clyde Dutton and Minnow and that’s primarily due to the performances by Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt and though I enjoyed the film, their presence is missed in the final act, as it has a somewhat predictable twist thrown in but takes a somewhat refreshing conclusion to previous monster/apocalyptic films that came before. Jessica Henwick gives a good performance as Aimee, the old high school girlfriend that Joel goes on a quest to reunite with, but again she has very little time to make as much of an impact with her character compared to Rooker and Greenblatt. The biggest takeaway for me from the film however is Boy, a dog that comes to Joel’s aid when he’s attacked by a mutant frog, and the performance and characterisation for Boy is easily the best handled since 2015’s Max, to the point that he even has his own trauma to deal with.

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VERDICT

Love and Monsters feels refreshing with its charm, sweetness, and likeable characters, even at the end of the world, with one of the best dog performances in ages. Dylan O’Brien is alright too. Overall a pleasant surprise.

★★★½