Considering the current global climate with a dangerous virus, a movie about an apocalypse brought on by monsters threatening mankind at every step is just the right kind of flick. And yes, it’s a movie about the journey of self-discovery in the aftermath of a monster apocalypse. While it may not be the most original premise you might expect, the execution is done surprisingly well. It’s an adventure/action family film directed by Michael Matthews, the South African director of Five Fingers for Marseilles, a film nominated for Best Achievement in Directing - Feature Film at 2017 South African Film and Television Awards.
The doomsday asteroid approaching the Earth forces mankind to clear it with nuclear weapons leaving behind disastrous consequences. The radiation causes terrible mutations in people, turning them into deadly monsters who start killing the remaining humans. With 95% of the world’s population wiped out, the survivors were forced into underground bunkers called the colonies.
Joel Dawson, a member of one of these colonies and the central character of the movie, is not your typical tough post-apocalyptic hero. Not even close. In the face of danger, when everybody else reaches for their weapons, he freezes like a deer in headlights. Before the apocalypse, Joel had the coolest, prettiest girlfriend and the world was heart-shaped. But when the monsters started appearing, the couple had to separate with a promise of reuniting one day. Seven years later, Joel decides that looking for Aimee is a noble romantic quest he needs to embark on. What Joel thinks is going to be a love quest, turns out to be an adventure that will turn this scared, but lovable guy, into a person worthy of the hero status.
As Joel sets out to reunite with his girl, he makes friends with an adorable dog who becomes his sidekick, as well as with two other survivors on their way to a safe place and a robot Maves. There’s a strange fascination with robots in this film and this particular one is especially kind. He perfectly describes the possible outcomes of this brave journey of Joel’s: When you see her, she will appreciate the grand romantic gesture implied by your journey and be moved by your kindness and leadership qualities…Another option is that Aimee will not see those qualities in you and you will have traveled a great distance only to be met with disappointment.
It is a heartfelt movie aimed at kids and young adults with mildly sarcastic humor, well done special effects, and relatable characters. It tells a charming story of conquering one’s fears, fighting for what’s valuable, and the importance of moving forward, especially in the face of a great tragedy.
The cast is led by Dylan O’Brien, who brings his usual goofy charm and sarcastic humor, and manages to portray Joel as insecure and lonely, but also as a sweet young guy. It’s not a particularly demanding role, but he shows the audience the right amount of growing pains his character goes through in an attempt to find Aimee. He’s one of those actors that do a great job when they have a lot of solo screen time. His funny monologues filled with relatable comments and his friendship with the dog Boy who accompanies him, keep the viewer engaged and interested. O’Brien steadily shows Joel’s development, depicting his insecurities and loneliness which make him feel like an outsider at the beginning, which later turns into strength and confidence.
Jessica Henwick, who portrays Aimee, has a habit of picking strong female roles such as Colleen in the TV series The Defenders and Iron Fist, Nymeria in Game of Thrones, and Jess in the new Star Wars films. She did the same thing in this movie, and while we weren’t able to see her transformation from a suburban, happy girl in love into a tough leader, in charge of the entire colony, it’s obvious that she went through a lot just like Joel.
Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt, who play Clyde and Minnow, respectively, make a strange but sweet surviving duo that teaches Joel how to listen to his instincts. They both lost people close to them and now find emotional and practical support in each other as they search for a safe space to start over.
Love and Monsters essentially has two different plotlines and it manages to balance them quite successfully. The post-apocalypse crisis is alleviated by the main character’s love quest as he faces great dangers and is forced to fight for his life at every step. The movie could have easily fallen into a trap of becoming a Zombieland rip-off. While it does remind us of it at times, Love and Monsters manages to set its own tone and to stay in its lane.
It has maintained a good balance of action, romance, and adventure. Like I said in the beginning, this movie might not have the most authentic premise or message, but it is aware of what it’s trying to accomplish and sticks to that. The story manages to set itself apart from the others like it, thanks to a great cast with amazing chemistry, interesting effects, and a few unpredictable, and memorable moments.