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Love and Monsters - Netflix film review

Updated: May 16, 2021


Directed by #MichaelMatthews


The end of the world has arrived and those who survived are hiding underground to escape the mutated monsters that lurk above. Joel (Dylan O'Brien) is not very apt at surviving and is forever the outcast of his colony. Missing his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) who is in another colony and desperate to rekindle their teenage romance, Joel embarks upon a life-threatening journey to be with her. Will he survive above the surface?

Joel standing with a makeshift weapon in an Avengers-style poster, where characters Boy, Aimee, Clyde and Minnow all stand with their weapons in an apocalyptic backdrop.
Love and Monsters poster

The vibe of this film reminisce a 2010s nostalgia for films like Warm Bodies and the Percy Jackson film series, coupled with a love for Stranger Things - an alternate universe and dangerous adventure, bursting with comedy and a questioning of what humanity has become. And no, it's not just because Dylan O'Brien looks like Logan Lerman a little bit. This film reclaims a genre that isn't made as much anymore, which means that it should be outdated, but it still feels fresh in the way that it is unassuming and packed full of wonder.

The concept is very inventive. Protagonist Joel is the only single human in a colony that is all coupled up and he freezes at the sight of danger. Dialogue pokes fun at itself as Joel still struggles with adapting to a new way of life. Despite feeling useless, he draws everything he sees in a trusty notebook, making sketches and observations of the monsters now known as their enemies. Life is mostly lifeless. Until he decides to undertake the 85 mile journey to Aimee's colony on a true love mission and his illustrations suddenly become a lifeline.

Joel is terrified of everything which perhaps makes him a funny and relatable narrator. As he breaches the surface, he finally gets to encounter fresh air again and see how mutated nature has taken its course. The rolling landscapes are beautiful and non-threatening, despite what we have been led to believe up until this point. It is not how an apocalypse has previously been imagined in film - there is no desolation, rather that nature has taken over and retained its beauty. That is, until Joel encounters his first monsters out in the open.

Robbed of a cinema release due to COVID-19, an at-home audience can see what would have made this such an epic big-screen release. With brief explanation, we are launched straight into the action and the realisation that Joel could die at any moment if he freezes in the face of danger. Immense special effects and illustrations, combined with eerie reveal moments, capture these well-designed and imaginative monsters immensely. The sci-fi aspects of this film are very immersive, with the close-up camera and shaky shots making the viewer feel as though they are right there in the face of danger. These monsters are what we would see in everyday life, but on a much larger and threatening scale, and this re-imagining of 'nature-gone-wrong' is terrifying.

But Joel doesn't have to encounter all of this on his own. Shortly into his journey, he meets a dog called Boy, mourning the loss of his owner, who joins him on his journey. Despite a lack of non-verbal communication, man and dog instantly connect with each other over mutual grief and hope as they embark on their journey for a better life. They also meet Clyde, a cowboy survivor-type, and his eight-year-old companion, Minnow. Full of badassery, comedy banter and on-the-surface experience, they teach Joel essential life skills and that there are good monsters amongst the bad ones. The audience are shown that Joel is more of a survivor than he realised with flashbacks to what happened leading up to being in his colony.

Joel and Boy also meet Mavis the robot, who was supposed to be cutting-edge science in allowing robots to have empathy. Despite being a brief encounter, she comes to represent each section of Joel's journey, where he rediscovers a bit more beauty and humanity in the world that he had forgotten. Somehow this makes the remainder of the plot feel very current, rather than a film that should have been released ten-years-ago. This ability to reconnect with a world forever changed is unpredictable and hopeful and above all else, a continuation of living.

An unpredictable plot and an ability to survive all odds are what makes this film great. Love and Monsters is currently available on Netflix UK and is well worth the watch - particularly if you love fun illustrations of made-up monsters and very sweet dogs.


Watch the trailer here:


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