Love and Monsters (dir. Michael Matthews, 2021) – Seven years after surviving a monster apocalypse, Joel finally finds the courage to leave his underground bunker and reunite with his girlfriend.
Nature fights back in Love and Monsters, where humanity’s grand plan to save ourselves spectacularly backfires. Our attempt to destroy an asteroid heading for Earth unfortunately results in a chemical fallout, turning the animal kingdom into massive monsters, all too fond of devouring the human race.
Well, most of us anyway. A handful of men and women live on intact, coupled up in scattered colonies and surviving on scant supplies. For seven years, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’ Brien) has been content in his bunker, alone and away from the monsters. But when a radio call reconnects him with his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick), he gathers the courage to finally leave his safe place and venture into the unknown for her.
It is a very different apocalypse that Joel faces out there. The world isn’t dark or broody, nor are the streets strewn with broken bodies. Rather, the imagined dystopia is vibrant with greenery and filled with a sense of wonder, in spite of the looming threat to humanity. There is some beauty in the chaos. Endearing are the harmless giants as snails, and even the upsized predators look like they deserve a little love.
Among the animals, Boy stands out as a normal-sized Kelpie with a big heart, steering Joel away from unseen dangers while hanging onto his own emotional baggage. Yes, even the canine gets his backstory. The adventure may be driven by action, but it is the well-crafted characters – both the boy and his dog – that truly make you care.
Dylan O’ Brien plays the helpless and hapless hero perfectly. The Teen Wolf alumnus proves that he still has hold of his charming sense of humour and well-timed wit. Along with that, he also brings such heartfelt sincerity and unfettered vulnerability to the role, delivering surprisingly moving moments between all that action.
Anchored by his performance, Love and Monsters also has a strong script for its deceptively simple plot. The story comes timely, intentionally or otherwise, with Joel making his way out of isolation into a different world. As he meets other humanoid and human survivors, including an all-too-short trek with traveller Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), he learns as we do. That love means much more than romance and can often be found where we neglect to look.
Come for the monsters, stay for the winning heroes in a hugely enjoyable adventure full of fun and heart.
Love and Monsters is now on Netflix.