When it finally receives its wide release, Colossal will surprise everyone. Given that it will most likely be marketed based on its supernatural elements, the film may seem like a simple monster mash-up.
But don’t tell that to the film’s writer and director, Nacho Vigalondo.
“It’s a mix,” he explains. “50% comes from my love towards monster movies and kaiju eigas. The initial premise is my way to approach those genres from a funny and, at the same time, accessible approach to me as filmmaker. The other 50% is my life, all my shades and bright moments.”
Written and directed by Vigalondo, Colossal tells the story of Gloria (Anne Hathaway), a woman who is dominated by her addiction to alcohol. After her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) ends their relationship and throws her out of his house, she returns to her family home in an attempt to find herself once again. While the Earth deals with a catastrophic kaiju crisis across the globe, Gloria takes a job in a local tavern and re-establishes relations with it’s owner (Jason Sudeikis), a childhood friend with whom she’d lost touch. As the two begin to reminisce and rebuild, Gloria soon realizes that she has a strange connection with the events taking place on the other side of the world.
For Vigalondo, having the opportunity to work with stars like Oscar-winner Hathaway and comedy veteran Sudeikis was amazingly fortunate, especially considering that their names were brought to him.
“Those were the first names offered and today I can´t think of a better casting for this roles,” he muses. “They are talented, clever, and both surprising.”
What’s more, in an interesting twist on the kaiju genre, Colossal shifts the monster mayhem to Seoul, Korea, as oppose to the more traditional Japanese setting. For Vigalondo, however, the setting actually speaks more about the way American culture grapples with disasters that take place around the globe that do not affect them directly.
“Seoul represents [the] ‘not-USA’,” he begins. “[It’s] a nation struggling with a disaster that American people within the comfort of their houses contemplate, try to understand, and make jokes about.”
With this in mind, one setting that is important to the film is the local tavern where the friends congregate each night. Gathering together until the early hours of the morning for drinking and storytelling, this location seems to take on the role of sanctuary for the characters. Nonetheless, Vigalondo also believes that the bar carries with it an element of danger as well.
“Not just the bar, but [more] specifically the “men cave” beyond the Country and Western side—the place where they drink after 2 am. That´s the place that works as the ultimate shelter for these characters, but it´s a trap. I’ve been there.“
What sets Colossal apart from other monster films (other than, arguably, the kaiju films developed overseas) is its ability to balance both character-focused drama with city-crushing monsters. (No offence Guillermo, but Pacific Rim hardly contained intimate personal issues.) Vigalondo admits that the film serves as metaphor for one woman’s struggle with addiction.
“The movie disguises itself as a cautionary tale about alcohol and addiction,” he explains, “but reveals [itself to be] something else as the story unfolds. The monster initially feels like a projection of Gloria´s (Anne Hathaway) troubles but later we see it´s just her.”
Of course, any film is better off with Anne Hathaway leading the cast. With Hathaway’s incredible talent and range, she is able to portray Gloria as a woman in pain yet gradually discovering strength and hope. When asked where that hope comes from, Vigalondo explains that he believes true power comes when we’re forced to make changes in our lives.
“That was one of the most tricky parts while writing the script. How can I make this character survive this situation while saving as much lives as possible? As in real life, in order to change, you need to experience a breaking point and, after that, you need to think about yourself in new terms. Out of the box. That what she does, it´s not about being more strong, but to change the nature of your strength.”
With Colossal, Nacho Vigalondo has created something truly unique and captivating. By it’s unique blend of character-driven indie and kaiju film, Vigalondo manages to explore the damage that can be done to our souls by others while still offering sci-fi elements and humour. Both fun and serious, the film will truly give you something you’ve never seen before.
Colossal, which made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, is currently touring the festival circuit but is expected to receive a wide release early in 2017.