Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 50 minutes, Director – Michael Matthews
Daring to leave the safety of his bunker, Joel (Dylan O’Brien) dares to travel the giant-monster covered surface of the Earth to make the seven day journey to his girlfriend, Aimee (Jessica Henwick).
For a light adventure-comedy there’s plenty within Love And Monsters that’s likely to unsettle you. Mostly in the detail of the CGI monsters (the film itself was nominated in the Best Visual Effects category at this year’s Oscars), the likes of 15-20ft frogs towering over central figure Joel (Dylan O’Brien) are at times genuinely uncomfortable. It enhances the feeling of danger and the threat that they pose. The reason for the fact that frogs, worms, crabs and many other creatures and insects have grown into giant man-eating monsters is because of a meteor that humanity decided to, of course, fire rockets at to avoid destruction to the Earth. After radiation was emitted from the meteor and transforming all kinds of animals humans are no longer at the top of the food chain. Skip forward a few years and only 5% of the population remain, with most survivors living in small family-like bunker communities.
Joel appears to be the outsider in his colony. Not the strongest fighter, he’s the only single person left – and especially the youngest of the group. When monsters manage to breach their way into the bunker he freezes in panic, only just saved by the close friends around him. Thus, deciding that enough is enough, Joel braves the surface of the Earth, taking the challenge of the seven day journey to his girlfriend Aimee’s (Jessica Henwick) colony, having only talked to her via weak radio links for the past couple of years.
O’Brien makes for a charming lead and seems to perfectly capture the tone and style of the film. One that, not just because of the creatures he encounters, almost feels like an animated film in live-action format. Partly to do with the jokes that run throughout, none of which feel in-your-face or as if they’re shouting at you; simply naturally coming from the characters and then moving on in an equally effortless way, but also the general look and feel of the action that lies throughout. This isn’t to say that the piece doesn’t work in a live-action format, it certainly does, it simply feels as if it shares elements and details with some of the standard elements that we’ve become used to seeing in a handful of animated films of recent years. It works as a successful family (a handful of sex references, landing this a 12 rating from the BBFC, aside – perhaps one for the older kids, however, or those where the details might skim over their heads?) film, and a delightful surprise too, much as The Kid Who Would Be King was a couple of years ago.
Having gone in knowing absolutely nothing about the film what I discovered was a real treat. Consistently funny, and even with some occasional beats of effective emotion, it’s a film as much about community as it is about Joel’s journey as a whole. He meets, and parts with, various figures along the way. Including surface-living survivors Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt). Both figures are a joy to watch as they bounce off each other with ease and create flowing, engaging and entertaining conversation with their knowledge about all kinds of monsters that might lurk in whatever surroundings and how to effectively take them down – as Joel stumbles behind with a makeshift crossbow and newfound dog, which he’s called Boy. Each conversation feels finely put together and simply adds to the entertainment factor of the film and just how enjoyable it is.
When it all comes together there’s a lot to like within Love And Monsters. The simplistic style and effective execution are the type we don’t tend to see that often nowadays. Even some of the more conventional moments don’t get in the way of the pacing and don’t allow things to feel tired or unenjoyable due to lack of originality – an issue which doesn’t overly appear to be present here. Throw into the mix a charming lead and a number of engaging characters who feel naturally funny and real within the cartoon-like world of the film and it’s difficult not to be caught up within it and taken along for a consistently delightful time.
At times feeling like an animated film in live-action form Love And Monsters isn’t without it’s unsettling creatures and emotional beats. It’s a pleasantly surprising, not to mention effortlessly funny, treat that came from nowhere.