Anyone who’s seen Monsters by Gareth Edwards will know just how much of a little cinematic gem it is. Released last year, the film’s guerilla shoot and tiny budget (rumoured to be less than $500,000) generated a lot of interest during the festival circuit. Not to mention the fact that Edwards wrote, shot, directed and did all of the 250 special effects shots featured in the film by himself. It’s a visually beautiful film to watch and shows that some really good and interesting effects can be done on smaller budgets, much like the effects in District 9. Take note Michael Bay…
The film centres around the two characters of Andrew and Sam who live in a near future where alien life forms have developed on Earth after a NASA deep space probe crashes into the sea. The creatures spread and mate across the Mexico-American border and so Northern Mexico has become a quarantined area. Andrew is a photographic journalist who is hired by his boss to escort his daughter Sam back to the United States and so we follow their journey through the quarantined zone to get home.
During their travels, Sam and Andrew eventually realise that they have fallen in love, made all the more real by the casting of real life couple Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy. Edwards wanted a real couple to play the lead roles to generate genuine chemistry and the two are fantastic. A scene where McNairy helps Able bandage her arm by a campfire is incredibly tender and their last night together by some temple ruins is full of bittersweet emotion that is downplayed to believable effect. The slow realisation that they have fallen for each other at the end of the film is both subtle and moving, made all the more so by the final reveal of the creatures just moments before.
Waiting to be rescued by the US military in an abandoned petrol station, the two leads witness two creatures coming together in the night to mate. The scene is stunning; the creatures wrapping themselves in and around each other generating beautiful biochemical electricity which lights up the dark. After blindly feeling for each other, they mate and disappear. Mirroring Andrew and Sam perfectly, the creatures sexual encounter substitutes as a sexual scene that may have been an obligatory, emotionless one had the film been in the hands of someone else. Instead, it relieves the audience of the sexual tension between McNairy and Able that has been steadily building throughout the picture. Just like the creatures, Sam and Andrew have met out of nowhere, fallen in love and are parting with the implied possibility that they may never see each other again. The importance and impact of their meeting on each others lives is shown in two telephone calls intercut with each other a few minutes before. They are both phoning the most significant people in their lives whilst realising that their relationship is more meaningful and honest. Sam calls her fiance who she seems reluctant to marry, replying to his ‘I love you’ with a monotonous response that is clearly meant for Andrew (she is staring at him whilst she says it). Andrew calls his son who isn’t aware of his real parentage, sobbing as he realises that he can never be honest or have an honest relationship with him like the one he has developed with Sam.
The final parting between Sam and Andrew is both joyous and heartbreaking in their admission to each other of their feelings and the realisation that it might be too late. ‘I don’t want to go home’ is met with one passion-filled, lingering kiss which is far more powerful than any other physical sex scene could be. Sexiest scene of 2010? Without a doubt.