From the tightly constructed time-travel film Timecrimes, to the thought-provoking ABCs of Death segment “A is for Apocalypse,” to the sprawling transmedia thriller Open Windows, Nacho Vigalondo has proven to be an extremely ambitious filmmaker. Colossal is yet another genre-defying entry into his impressive filmography.
The film opens like an indie dramedy, with thirtysomething Gloria (Anne Hathaway) being kicked out of her live-in boyfriend Tim’s (Dan Stevens) apartment in Manhattan when coming home late (again) after a night spent partying (again). Forced to move back to her small hometown in Maine, she takes up residence in her parent’s rental property, one that has no furniture but which does have a reliable WiFi connection. On her way back from buying an inflatable mattress, she runs into former grammar school classmate Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who is happy to see her after so many years. Oscar has taken over his father’s bar and the pair decides to hang out and catch up.
It sounds like the set up to a romantic comedy, yet Colossal is anything but. For one, to categorize the relationship between Gloria and Oscar as a romance would be a grave mistake. Secondly, while Colossal is definitely funny, there’s a serious undercurrent to the film that doesn’t fully reveal itself until the very end.
Then there’s the whole Kaijū aspect.
Not content with just having the characters in Colossal come to terms with their dysfunctional lives by showing the characters coming to terms with their dysfunctional lives, Vigalondo (who also wrote the script) tosses something even bigger into the mix. There’s a giant monster destroying Seoul, South Korea. How this relates to Gloria’s predicament of being an unemployed, burgeoning alcoholic becomes clear pretty early on in the film, which leaves the rest of Colossal to tackle some exceedingly dark and topical territory.
Audiences may be surprised to see the transformation of the characters in Colossal, as they shift from one thing into another and then back again. It’s a remarkable metaphor for the monsters in the film (yes, there is more than one), which are brought to life with some spectacular special effects. It’s fascinating to watch Gloria figure out something monumentally important while something even more nefarious and closer to home is insinuating itself into her life.
Colossal is not a horror film per se. That said, there are definitely horrors to be found within it. What’s most frightening is that they are both mundane and truly malevolent. Vigalondo and his cast hold a mirror up to the ugliness of toxic masculinity and what it reflects back is something scarier than any kaijū. Colossal is a brilliant film that addresses real-life issues through humor and gravitas, as well as giant monsters.
Colossal received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, September 9.