4 out of 5 stars
There are moments where a film turns out to be a pleasant surprise. Those rare films that fly under the radar until they are acknowledged during awards season and suddenly pop up on a streaming service. Love and Monsters was recently nominated for an Academy Award and then quietly arrived on Netflix. Even though it did have a short run in American theatres, it did not even get noticed in the media. This quirky dystopian love story has done something that few films have managed to do this year. It delivers something fun and entertaining for the family to enjoy together.
As the world is about to be eliminated by the effects of an impending asteroid, Joel Dawson (Dylan O'Brien) narrates the story of how the remaining human population ends up living underground. Above them, monsters created by the after-effects of the asteroid roam the earth. They have eliminated 95 percent of the world’s human population. Despite losing his family and life above ground, he has learned to adapt to the subterranean lifestyle. He serves as his colony’s cook, has a proficiency for operating the radio and works on his artistic skills. After seven years, the only thing that keeps him sane is his desire to reconnect with his girlfriend from years ago. Aimee (Jessica Henwick) survived and lives in a colony several days away from his own.
Even though life is not bad for Joel, he does weigh out the danger and decides that it would be worth the risk to search out his long-lost love. His naivety gives him unwarranted courage. The love-driven youth does not realise how much danger he will see as he ventures away from his community. The young adventurer happens upon a dog named Boy and two survivalists who help to guide him along his path. Clyde Dutton (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) work with Joel to improve his survival skills and help to guide him to Jessica’s colony. If he can get to her, he must determine if putting his life at risk is worth all trouble as he realises that much can change between two people in seven years.
With the creative team behind the Night in the Museum franchise as producers and a lead actor who is no stranger to dystopian narratives, this is a refreshing option for families. By incorporating the humour of Zombieland, the visual effects of Jumanji and a John Hughes-like quirky love story, this film doesn’t look like it should work, but it does. Just as Warm Bodies did for zombie films, this movie proves to be a fresh spin on the dystopian genre. Director Michael Matthews manages to weave together these seemingly unlikely elements into a tale that slowly wins over audiences and will cause all to seek after a sequel.
As people woke up to the nominations of the 93rd Academy Awards, some may have noticed this film being nominated for Best Visual Effects. Yet, this filmmaking component is secondary to the enjoyable nuances of the on-screen relationships. Everyone will desire for Joel to make it to the end of his love-based quest. Which does mean that the film relies heavily on Dylan O’Brien’s charismatic performance. Even though he is surrounded by wonderful supporting characters, an outstanding Australian Kelpie and the beautiful landscape of Queensland, this film belongs to this underappreciated actor. Love and Monsters is one of those rare finds on Netflix that will leave you wanting more.
REEL DIALOGUE: Do romance and God make a good combination?
When it comes to love stories, few people would use a catastrophic event to begin the tale. Joel’s journey is seen as one of the most romantic expressions of love by most on and off-screen.
The same could be said about God and romance. When it comes to romance, the Bible's God does not usually come to mind as a purveyor of love. Most people inside and outside the Christian faith may think that discovering real romance can only occur outside the Bible. It is an unfortunate misconception because as the Creator and God of love, it can be said that romance was his idea, too.
From the original creation account to the wisdom literature of the Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Solomon, the word pictures and phrases make for an atmosphere for romance. Like any relationship, God does set parameters for this love connection. Still, within this playground, the Creator of romance allows for a beautiful atmosphere for love.