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‘Love and Monsters’ chronicles the path to personal evolution

“Love and Monsters” (2020). Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Ariana Greenblatt, Dan Ewing, Ellen Hollman, Tre Hale, Melanie Zanetti (voice). Tandi Wright, Andrew Buchanan, Pacharo Mzemba, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Hero the dog, Dodge the dog. Director: Michael Matthews. Screenplay: Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson. Story: Brian Duffield. Web site. Trailer.

Stagnancy can be a drag, not just in terms of the boredom factor, but also for the detrimental effects it can have on our personal growth and development. It leaves us stuck, watching time pass without any meaningful diversions, insights or hope for the future. But doldrums like these need not remain a fixed, unalterable state; we can transform, becoming more than we were and, perhaps more importantly, more than we thought we could be. Such is the case for a lonely, lovelorn young man in the delightfully entertaining new sci-fi comedy, “Love and Monsters.”

When the earth is beset by an environmental and evolutionary disaster, much of humanity is wiped out. That’s because many of the planet’s animals – especially reptiles, insects and crustaceans – undergo radical mutations that turn them into enormous monsters with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. As a consequence, the remaining survivors are forced into makeshift underground bunkers, many of them far removed from one another. And about the only time that the survivors go aboveground is to forage for supplies, the leftover untouched scraps of their former lives available for the taking, a decidedly risky pursuit given the potential perils that await them on the surface.

While the bunkers generally provide a good degree of safety, life inside them can grow relentlessly tedious. It’s not entirely unbearable for those who successfully manage to couple up with romantic partners, but, for those left out of such fun and frolic, like twenty-something Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien), the solo life can become little more than an exasperatingly frustrating series of cold showers. About the only diversions Joel has are his artwork and access to a ham radio through which he’s able to converse with Aimee (Jessica Henwick), his love interest from the days before going underground. However, as time goes by and Joel finds himself as just about the only unpartnered resident of his bunker community, he realizes that something has to change. He decides to risk the journey to join Aimee at her compound, despite the many dangers he’s likely to face along the way.

Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) embarks on a perilous cross-country journey to reunite with his long-separated love interest in the enjoyable new family fare offering, “Love and Monsters.” Photo by Jasin Boland, courtesy of Netflix/Paramount Pictures.

When Joel announces his intention to leave, his fellow residents encourage him to stay, saying they need him to help keep the bunker community afloat. They also discourage this venture by tactfully but frankly noting that Joel isn’t exactly the most adept or street smart among their ranks; they wonder how he’ll be able to contend with challenges like huge man-eating frogs and slugs, among other perils. But, convinced that he has to make the attempt at reuniting with Aimee, he embarks on the 80-mile hike into the unknown.

As Joel treks across this foreign terrain, he encounters all of the menacing creatures he was warned about, but he somehow manages to protect himself, quickly learning how to draw upon his wits to keep himself alive. He also chances upon a number of guides to accompany him on his trip, including a loyal canine friend, Boy (Hero the dog/Dodge the dog); an experienced surface dweller, Clyde (Michael Rooker), and his pint-sized companion, Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt); and a damaged but still functional domestic robot, Mav1s (Melanie Zanetti), all of whom offer valuable suggestions for how to get on in the wild and how to maintain faith in his goal despite the many obstacles he faces.

Through this experience, Joel evolves in much the same way as the creatures around him – not so much physically, but certainly in terms of his personal capabilities. He becomes so proficient at survival that he just might make it to Aimee’s bunker. But, in seeking to fulfill his dream, he’ll have to face additional challenges of a different and totally unexpected type, as well as the exploits of a trio of new strangers (Dan Ewing, Ellen Hollman, Tre Hale), all of whom claim to be trustworthy but merit caution. How will it all turn out? Stay tuned.

In the days before their protracted separation, budding romantic partners Joel (Dylan O’Brien, right) and Aimee (Jessica Henwick, left) say goodbye in hopes of meeting again in the face of a global calamity in “Love and Monsters.” Photo by Jasin Boland, courtesy of Netflix/Paramount Pictures.

Embarking on a potentially life-changing venture can be fraught with challenges, pitfalls and uncertainty. At the same time, it can also be filled with hope, inspiration and opportunity. The question is, how do we approach such an undertaking? That’s significant, because how we launch into something as audacious as this can have a tremendous bearing on how it pans out. It shapes our frame of mind, which, in turn, forms the basis of our beliefs about the endeavor. And those beliefs provide the foundation for its manifestation, a consequence of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains these intangible building blocks provide the basis for the materialization of the reality we experience.

Considering the odyssey that Joel is commencing, it would be in his best interests if he approached it with an outlook rooted in achieving success. But, if that success is to be realized, he needs to clear the path ahead of him, making a conscious effort to remove any roadblocks that might impede him. And first and foremost among them are the fears and limitations that would hold him back.

If fears are allowed to hold sway in the conscious creation process, they could easily prevent the sought-after outcomes from materializing. They would essentially stop Joel in his tracks, because fear-based beliefs inherently keep us from moving forward with our plans, no matter how well thought out and meticulously orchestrated they may be. If such notions are present in our belief mix, we realistically have to ask ourselves, why would we intentionally apply the brakes to our ambitions before we even get out of the starting gate? Quite simply, they need to go, no matter how tall an order that might represent.

Man’s best friend, Boy (Hero the dog/Dodge the dog), lives up to that reputation when he joins a lovelorn twenty-something, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien), on a dangerous journey to reunite with his girlfriend in director Michael Matthews’s entertaining new release, “Love and Monsters.” Photo by Jasin Boland, courtesy of Netflix/Paramount Pictures.

The same is true of any limitations that might block our way. Limitations are often propped up by excuses, which, in turn, are frequently governed by fears, all of which again illustrates the need for those beliefs to be eliminated. But, when that’s not the case, the perception of limitations as impediments can have the same effect as a fear blocking us from forward progress. In situations like this, then, we must make a concerted effort to devise solutions that allow us to overcome whatever is holding us back. That takes getting creative, considering options to which we may not have previously given any thought. It involves purposely thinking outside the box or pushing the envelope or whatever other motivational speaker cliché that one can draw from. These expressions may be a little trite, but the recommendations behind them are solid in cases like this. After all, if this work involves the conscious creation process, then we’d better get busy and think creatively to come up with workable solutions.

In Joel’s case, he accomplishes this by drawing guides to him who can help show him the way to overcome his limitations. Boy, Clyde, Minnow and Mav1s all offer ideas that he can embrace and adapt to suit his needs. He may not get things right on his initial attempts at employing their suggestions, but that’s how he learns to hone his skills, not only in a tangible sense, but also in refining the beliefs he needs to bring about the results he seeks. And, in his circumstances, that can mean the difference between life and death.

As a corollary to this, Joel also affords himself an opportunity to learn about hidden skills and talents that he never knew he possessed. The circumstances in which he finds himself prompt the need for solutions, frequently of an innovative nature. All of which lends further credence to the notion that necessity truly is the mother of invention. And, besides presenting Joel with answers to his dilemmas, they make him aware of parts of himself that previously went unseen and unexplored. That’s quite a bargain when it comes to matters of our personal growth and development.

On a grander scale, the amalgamation of a number of such experiences enables the advancement of one’s personal evolution. Just as the world around Joel has transformed itself, so, too, does he as he goes through this wondrous adventure. That’s significant, for it affords him an opportunity to exceed his limitations and his expectations (as well as those that others hold of him). By allowing himself to grow and evolve through this venture, he has an opportunity to become more than he was, to transform himself into someone different from when he began his journey. It’s a development very much in line with the spirit of conscious creation, one of whose core principles maintains that we’re all in a constant state of becoming. And, given Joel’s experience, that’s certainly the case here, a shining example of personal evolution that serves as an inspiration to the rest of us.

A cross-country hiker making a perilous journey receives valuable support and guidance from an experienced surface dweller, Clyde (Michael Rooker, right), his pint-sized companion, Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt, left), and a loyal canine friend, Boy (Hero the dog/Dodge the dog), in “Love and Monsters.” Photo by Jasin Boland, courtesy of Netflix/Paramount Pictures.
With wild and deadly creatures all around him, intrepid hiker Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) must defend himself by any means possible in “Love and Monsters,” now available for streaming and on home media. Photo by Jasin Boland, courtesy of Netflix/Paramount Pictures.

When we take this principle to its highest expression, we have an opportunity to fulfill our destiny. As expressed in conscious creation terms, this is the embodiment of living out our value fulfillment, the concept of being our best, truest selves for the betterment of ourselves and those around us. Indeed, as Joel’s story unfolds, he comes upon circumstances that provide him with an opportunity to realize this for himself and the others he encounters. It’s his chance to leave a lasting legacy, one that’s beneficial to many, including those in need and some whom he has never met before. That’s quite a change for someone who once spent all his time doing sketches and just thinking about a better future.

It’s always a real treat when a film from which one might not expect much turns out to be a pleasant surprise, and so it is with this charming, fun, entertaining sci-fi/comedy/road trip/young adult romance tale set against the challenges of a crushing but comical monsterpocalypse. This genre-fusing evolutionary saga serves up a delightful story in which the concept of transformation is reflected in more than just the creatures of nature. Though occasionally somewhat predictable, the film is nevertheless filled with many delicious plot twists and developments that are augmented by colorful supporting characters (some of them human, some not), genuinely laugh-out-loud humor, and even a few touching moments that are truly heartfelt but without ever becoming sappy. Then there are the picture’s superb visual effects, which very deservedly earned an Oscar nomination for their clever, inventive, eye-popping designs. While “Love and Monsters” may not have a particularly compelling title, it has much to offer in terms entertainment value and engaging insights, even for younger viewers, qualities that are often hard to come by in fare aimed at such audiences. Even though this release has been quietly flying below the radar for a while, director Michael Matthews’s second feature outing deserves wider attention than it has been getting in light of everything it has going for it.

Sitting on the sidelines, waiting for life to happen, gets us nowhere. If we want our lives to change, we have to be agents of that change, taking steps to nurture and encourage that evolution in hopes that it fulfills our dreams and brings us the reality we want. It’s attainable, but we have to invoke it, with confidence and resolve and without reservation. If someone like Joel Dawson can understand that and make the effort to attain it, then we should be able to as well. And, even if we don’t succeed at it, at least the attempt sure as hell beats being stuck in a bunker all day.

Copyright © 2021, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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