Dylan O’Brien is no stranger to stories of apocalypse and adventure; the star of The Maze Runner has faced off with more than a few formidable foes, and his latest role in Love and Monsters is no exception. Now streaming on VOD, Love and Monsters is part-post-apocalyptic adventure movie, part-love story. We’re here to let you know if it’s worth traveling to the ends of the earth with this guy, or if you’re better off in other company.
LOVE AND MONSTERS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Welcome to a post-apocalyptic world where creatures far and wide are now super-sized thanks to the fallout of taking down a massive asteroid with a series of rockets. 95% of the world’s human population has been wiped out, and most of the remaining survivors live underground in bunkers. One of those humans is Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien), a nervous artist known in his colony for his minestrone. Joel hasn’t seen his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) since the world went to shit seven years ago, but he dreams of reuniting with her – and one day, fed up with feeling useless in his colony, he decides to make that dream come true.
Despite colony members’ objections, Joel heads out on an 85-mile trek to the beach where Aimee’s colony is. On the way, he befriends a dog named Boy, who becomes his most loyal companion. Not too long into his journey, Joel also encounters Clyde (Michael Rooker) and young, scrappy Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) an unconventional duo who teach him what he needs to survive in this land of massive, human-craving monsters. With the help of these new friends and a few spots of his own courage, Joel begins to believe in himself and let go of the traumas that haunt him. Part-apocalypse adventure, part-romantic comedy, part-journey of self discovery, Love and Monsters is a light, (mostly) family-friendly film that has something to say.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: I thought a lot about this while watching because it elicited feelings of a few familiar flicks; Love and Monsters feels like Zombieland and Hunt for the Wilderpeople meets adventure movies of the ’80s and ’90s and the big-heartedness of John Hughes.
Performance Worth Watching: The dog who plays Boy is a STAR. I think I cried more at this hound’s performance than I have at anything in the last week. (I cry a lot). On a serious note, much like Julia Butters stole every second she was on screen in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, young Ariana Greenblatt establishes herself as a star in the making the moment she appears in Love and Monsters. Her role is not a particularly new one – we saw Abigail Breslin do this schtick in Zombieland – but she breathes life and genuine emotion into it, eliciting laughs with zingers and breaking hearts with her tears. With any luck, we’ll be seeing her on screen for years to come.
Memorable Dialogue: There are a lot of clever lines (and a good running bit about stealing food) here, but I really enjoyed the simple effectiveness of “You’re an asshole if you get eaten” as a farewell sentiment when Joel embarks on his journey.
Sex and Skin: The film opens with a few references to all the sex-having happening around Joel in the bunker, and we see him almost have car sex with his girlfriend in a flashback, but overall, Love and Monsters is pretty family-friendly.
Our Take: I don’t remember the last time I experienced such a full range of emotions watching a movie of this nature. I smiled, I laughed, I cried, I gasped. Even when I knew where things were going, they still affected me deeply. Love and Monsters is something truly special, a delightful romp appealing for both adults and tweens and teens that might be drawn to this kind of story. In a short amount of time, the film manages to build an exciting world and establish a distinct tone with the use of clever animations and quippy voiceover from Joel. Even in its apocalyptic state, the world of this story is a dazzling one. It is a true testament to the filmmakers that they’re able to draw us in so quickly without making it feel overly expositional.
As the film’s leading man, Dylan O’Brien proves himself as a comedic and emotionally genuine force, giving off some serious vibes that evoke Adam Brody, a dash of Chris Pratt, and a sprinkle of beloved adventure stars of the ’80s and ’90s. He’s awkward without feeling try-hard or grating, and strangely charming as hell – his character may not have worked quite as well in the hands of another actor. The script is clever, tight, and well-structured, but the performances from O’Brien and the rest of the cast really take it to the next level – and so does his sparky chemistry with Henwick, even when their story doesn’t go where we might expect. Beyond the storytelling and performances, Love and Monsters won me over from a technical and aesthetic perspective with just about every scene; the monsters themselves were impressively executed and totally thrilling – perhaps the best effects work I’ve seen in a minute – and the action set pieces really worked. The dreamy, occasionally nightmarish scenery also helped sealed the deal.
Perhaps inadvertently, it is a timely film for these days of lockdown and isolation, a reminder that while we can’t live our lives the way we’re used to, we can step out of our comfort zones in other ways. Love and Monsters is really a story of tackling monsters both real and in our heads, and while there isn’t a ton below the surface, it’s still a refreshingly heartfelt and light piece of work. Even the more predictable moments are spirited and energetic, and while it’s not always laugh-out-loud funny, the film’s warmth drives home everything else. Love and Monsters is a dose of much-needed hope and open-heartedness with some excellent monsters and action sequences tossed in for good measure.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Love and Monsters offers an adventure full of excitement and emotion, striking a beautiful balance of humor and heart.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines and harboring dad-aged celebrity crushes. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Love and Monsters’ On VOD, An Apocalyptic Adventure With A Big Heart Wire Services/ Decider.