Magic realism mixes big monsters with a bigger heart
As with the best Grimm Brothers faerie tales, pinning down moral allegories in Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is a tricky endeavour.
Anne Hathaway stars as out-of-work, alcoholic 30-something Gloria. Kicked out of a snazzy New York apartment by uptight, condescending boyfriend Tim (Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens), she returns to her small hometown in the hope of getting life back in order.
Reuniting with old school friend and barman Oscar (brilliantly played by Jason Sudeikis), she seems to be making progress – until giant monsters begin attacking Seoul in South Korea. Feeling a strange sense of empathy for the victims, she is horrified to discover that she might, impossibly, have something to do with the disaster.
Vigalondo wonderfully plays with genre conventions and narrative structure to muddle all sorts of audience expectations. What seems to be a quirky comedy-drama on the perils of alcohol misuse morphs into worthy romance, then transforms into childhood allegory, until landing in adult psychology – before diving back into human drama. Whenever you feel like you’re getting it, everything turns upside down.
Unusually, this makes for an increasingly enjoyable experience. Rather like the splintering of a kaleidoscope, the multiple angles on the story only make it more gripping and thought-provoking.
Everything is aided by edgy, confident performances – especially from Hathaway and Sudeikis – allowing characters to grow in depth and complexity at every turn. Eric Kress’ creative shot composition and Bear McCreary’s melodramatic score also combine to present a storybook feel, perfect for the magic realism of the plotline and Hathaway’s fable-like hero’s journey.
The whole film feels remarkably fresh and driven amidst a sea of big-budget corporate cinema, and an intriguing behind-the-scenes component may explain this: it is one of the first features to be produced in partnership with the innovative audience-owned ‘entertainment company’ Legion M.
So if you have a taste for carefully crafted absurdity, then Colossal will deliver in spades. If not, it’s probably still worth a shot – you may be pleasantly surprised.
– Laurie Bailey