VOD Review - Monster Pies

Tristan Barr (left) and Lucas Linehan
in "Monster Pies"
This independent film from Melbourne, Australia, and set down-under, at first glance, might seem like it takes place in the present, but the main character Mike, played by Tristan Barr, rides his bike to school and there is a quick shot of him slamming a cassette tape into his Sony Walkman. After school, he goes to work at a video store where they still rent out VHS tapes. No specific year is given, but I'd guess Mike lives in the Melbourne of the mid to late 1990s.

Mike's frequent truancy at school lands him in the principal's office where he first eyes the new, transfer student William, played by Lucas Linehan. Mike is delighted when Will ends up in his English class and they are partnered in a project on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Writer-director Lee Galea shows his appreciation for the tragic love story of star-crossed, teenage lovers. He embraces it here, has some fun with it and handily takes us down its ill-fated path, but he doesn't do as Alan Brown did in Private Romeo (2012) and try to adapt or transfer the Bard's story. Galea makes Shakespeare's tale his own. He also takes familiar themes and tropes of queer cinema and makes them his own so that even something set in the past can still feel brand new.

Galea also answers the burning question of what would it be like if the Wolfman and Frankenstein's Monster fell in love and even kissed. It's the bringing together of two unlikely people. Yet, in the final analysis, we see Mike and Will aren't so unlikely, and they do have a lot of things in common. Their natural gravitation toward each other and ease with one another feels the most likely.

Barr and Linehan's performances have their own natural gravitation. The boys here are just so warm and inviting. There is a comfort and an ease with which they relate to each other. I believe they could fit together. I believe that they are drawn to one another.

When Will asks to stay the night at Mike's house, I believe Mike's excitement and enthusiasm. When Mike challenges Will, following an incident at the swimming pool, I believe Mike's declaration, which is both fearful and passion-filled, and, for a story like this, that's more than half the battle.

In short, Barr and Linehan have good chemistry. Galea allows that chemistry to shine on screen. What also shines brilliantly is Galea's obvious love of movies. His character of Mike is most likely his proxy here. Mike has posters of classics like A Clockwork Orange (1971) on his wall. Mike can fashion a make-shift, drive-in theater. Mike's love of movies is evident in that he uses movies to express his love. The same is true by the end for Will. He uses movies as a way of expressing his love for Mike.

It's not all happiness though, and Barr and Linehan are just as good with the heavier drama, the pathos, as their characters deal with strife and loss within and outside their families. Linehan is particularly good at harboring hurt and pain, resulting from his character's shame and guilt.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains gay themes and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 24 mins.

A great song on this movie's soundtrack, played during Mike and Will's school dance is "Love to Love" by Pina Tuteri. Listen to it here:


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