It’s just a 7-day hike across the wastelands to reach the love of his life and all that stands in his way is every living creature
Love and Monsters is directed by Michael Matthews and stars Dylan O’Brien as Joel, living through an ‘end of the world’ scenario. Mankind took decisive action against an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. While we won that battle, we didn’t anticipate the by-products of firing that many rockets. The debris combined with the chemical compounds from the rockets created a toxic mix which hit the earth and turned our otherwise subservient creatures into massive monsters. Mankind became the prey rather than the predators and those who stayed alive, lived in underground bunkers.
The love in the title refers to Joel’s girlfriend Aimee played by Jessica Henwick. They are separated at the start of this monster apocalypse and for 7 years communicate via radio as the surface is too dangerous for anyone to venture out. As one character said, everything up there is trying to kill you.
While there isn’t much we haven’t seen before here, this approach to an apocalypse is actually quite refreshing. Rather than being full of terror, doom, and gloom, we see families and tight bonds formed. We see characters who care about each other, not trying to gain an advantage or stab each other in the back. Infact all the majority of human characters are positive and supportive, despite their predicament. Joel himself is immediately relatable and empathetic. He doesn’t try too hard to be liked and genuinely wants to do his best to help his ‘family’ in the bunker.
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There are a few moments of slight tension, created by some clever sound work and our own imagination. Once the monsters themselves are fully visible, it becomes comically obvious the budget wasn’t spent on creating incredible looking monsters. Having said that, the story lends itself to these monster designs as these aren’t supposed to be unusual creatures we have never seen before. They are creatures we are all familiar with, like ants, moles, frogs and cockroaches, just twenty times bigger!
Against all odds, Joel who is the weakest in his bunker, sets out on this impossible journey to see his love, Aimee. Their blossoming romance is told mostly through flashbacks and does an excellent job of making this a believable relationship we can route for.
This is one young man’s journey across a hostile planet to reunite with someone he feels will fill that space in his heart. Like most people who have lived through this disaster, he has lost his parents and all relatives so the connection to anything before the apocalypse is a strong draw. Director Michael Matthews didn’t plan to make a film to scare or terrify the audience. Despite ‘Monsters’ appearance in the title, this is primarily a story of enduring love and discovering family where you least expect it.
Putting the monsters aside for a moment, the human performances are solid, despite the over-the-top subject matter. Everyone takes the roles seriously enough while still appreciating it’s not really that serious. Despite their cheap design and appearance, some of the monsters actually worked quite well. A giant frog trying to eat Joel was certainly entertaining. Despite being the end of the world, some of the landscapes are quite pleasing to look at. The cinematography supports the story being told. The action is always clear with very few ‘fast cuts’ to maintain a connection with the characters.
This may be just another apocalypse film, but it differentiates itself by not trying to scare of terrify the audience. Humans aren’t all terrible people trying to hurt each other to gain a benefit. Every death here matters and characters deal with the PTSD by finding solace in each other and their makeshift families. There is no explicit sexual content or the bad language you would expect in these types of movies, it’s definitely ‘teen friendly ‘. This may be a story of Love and Monsters, but family and companionship take centre stage here.
Love and Monsters is available now on Netflix. See the trailer here