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January 19, 2024

‘Your Monster’ Sundance 2024 Review: A Monstrously Good Time

By Chad Collins

Your Monster is liable to be the most fun you have at the movies this year, perhaps in the past several years. Writer and director Caroline Lindy’s feature debut is remarkably assured, ostensibly retelling Beauty and the Beast, though imbued with oodles of charm, a smattering of horror gore, and a truly star-making turn from Melissa Barrera. Truly, Barrera, while a star before Your Monster, ascends to an entirely different level here.

The gist is simple, high-concept stuff, but welded together with sensational work both in front of and behind the camera. Homage becomes singular, a confident merging of disparate genres that feels earnestly, honestly unique. Barrera stars as Laura Franco, an actress who starts Your Monster in particularly grim rom-com straits. She’s just had surgery to combat her cancer, her playwright stud boyfriend Jacob (Edmund Donovan, a convincing cad who never overplays his hand) has dumped her, and she’s forced to return to her errant mother’s house to recover. Mom never makes an appearance, so best (and sole) friend Mazie (Kayla Foster, bubbly without feeling archetypal) is consigned to care for her.

A Nora Ephron montage later, Laura is barely holding it together. In Your Monster’s first creepy-crawly horror beat, she encounters her childhood monster-in-the-closet named, well, Monster (Tommy Dewey, also Executive Producing) during a particularly nasty thunderstorm. At first, their relationship is combative. Mom is never home, so Monster has gotten used to living alone. Laura is an obstacle to his bachelor lifestyle, so he gives her two weeks to find new digs and leave. Guess what happens?

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Your Monster is principally a romantic comedy, swaggering through the expected beats with a dollop of monstrous charm. Lindy’s script is wry enough to never feel cliché, even as the moment-to-moment arcs appear conventional, and the compelling, endearing chemistry between Barrera and Dewey is impossible to resist. A beat involving Szechuan chicken is poised to be the most swoon-worthy moment of the year.

The broad structure sees Monster urging Laura to reclaim her life, starting with a role in Jacob’s Broadway production originally written for her while they were together. Again, not necessarily breaking new ground narratively, but the distinct sense of Lindy—condensed into a script that is simultaneously comfortable and probing—maintains enduring interest. It’s cute, raw, romantic, a little violent, and consistently dedicated to the internal truths of both Laura and Monster, lost souls begging to be valued and understood.

Which, of course, says nothing of the music, a medley of expectedly vintage love songs and original material written and composed by brothers Daniel and Patrick Lazour. Director of Photography Will Stone augments the mostly interior sets with convincing whimsy, peaking with a sensationally lit Halloween party at the local theater. And those costumes by Matthew Simonelli? To die for.

Your Monster is elevated further by its commitment to the genre, reaching a Black Swan-style crescendo that cements the film’s Midnight status. It’s a thrumming, toe-tapping, blood-letting hoot, encapsulating the core of what Your Monster endeavors and succeeds to be. It’s a rallying cry for the brokenhearted, especially women, and the cesspools of life they’re compelled to navigate. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement, some pie, and a monster in the closet to see life not for what it is, but for what it could be in all its hairy, toothy glory.

Tags: Sundance 2024 your monster