Loving a Monster is a tale as old as time, and in Your Monster, Laura Franco (Melissa Barrera) falls in love with her very own. Directed and written by Caroline Lindy and based on a short film of the same name, Your Monster zooms in on a woman whose life is falling apart at every single turn.
Played by Melissa Barrera, Laura is soft-spoken, to put it nicely, and a doormat, to put it plainly. When she’s at her lowest, crying every day after a life-saving surgery and grieving a relationship, Laura finds the Monster (Tommy Dewey) living in her closet. At first, he wants her out, and then it turns into something more. As she falls in love with the Monster, she releases everything she has held inside. Every bit of rage, every bit of pain, she learns just to let it out.
Dramatic in parts, Your Monster defies genre. There is horror; there is rom-com and a Broadway musical, too. Over the course of the film, Laura starts by crying her eyes out over old pie and snapping and verbally eviscerating her ex-boyfriend (Edmund Donovan). And through it all, she’s endearing and empathetic. Even in her most broken and self-sabotaging moments, you deeply feel for her. Laura is messy and a tad chaotic, but she is also extremely recognizable.
Your Monster is filled with whimsy and introspection. While the metaphor is screaming at the audience, Lindy’s brash take on the traditional fairy tale is fantastic. She uses familiar themes. The film is intimate and ultimately a fantastic follow-up for Barrerra, who has solidified her genre chops. Ultimately, it’s proof that Barrera never needed SCREAM.
Barrera oscillates from showing every vulnerability to digging in deep and releasing every piece of anger in a raucous and beautiful release. Barrera’s casting as Laura in this role carries with it a special importance. Laura bottles everything up, shoves it deep down, and just accepts everything. She says it’s okay when it’s not. Laura is conditioned to be okay with all the hell people put her through. She can’t raise her voice, she can’t fight back, she has to be timid.
For Latinas, for women of color, more generally, that is what you have to do. If you speak too loud, you’re angry. If you stand up for yourself, you’re horrible. While Laura’s story is one that all women can see themselves in, as a Mexican woman with brown skin who spent the largest part of my life accepting everything others did to me just to be liked…it hits harder.
But Laura isn’t the only character that keeps the audience engaged. Dewey as Monster is perfection. Their chemistry is sexy, funny, and natural. Monster is Laura’s mirror. He can be mean and frustrating, but all of it comes from a real place. In many ways, Monster reflects everything the audience wants to say and what Laura wants to tell herself.
The film’s character work is fantastic, of course, but so is the set design and costuming. In a practical effects sense, Your Monster is stunning. The monster in the closet isn’t just believable; he’s sexy, and that’s really what a monster lover story calls for. The devotion to practical effects work, original music, and allowing Barrera to sell it all makes Your Monster an absolute stunner.
Your Monster is a weird, dark, and fantastical tale. Laura is a cathartic character, and with a killer finale, this is a film that everyone who has struggled to push back needs to watch. An indie film that uses ingenuity and creativity at every single turn, it’s sublime. Love your monster, embrace your monster, let it out.
Your Monster played as a part of the Sundance 2024 Midnight program.
Your Monster is a weird, dark, and fantastical tale. Laura is a cathartic character, and with a killer finale, this is a film that everyone who has struggled to push back needs to watch.