Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is dishevelled, self destructive, and on the precipice of collapse. She’s resourceful and capable, but a tumultuous relationship with alcohol has left her a husk of the person she once was; a person left to the audience’s imagination.
Starting over in upstate New York, the film follows Gloria as she rebuilds her life. After accepting a seemingly innocuous offer to work at her childhood friend, Oscar’s (Jason Sudeikis) bar, the trajectory of the film picks up pace.
Gloria develops a routine, a pattern and slowly builds a sense of stability for herself. She’s endearing in her capacity to keep ploughing on, to continue, to try. Working at a bar in proximity of alcohol is not presented as initially problematic, and in accordance with the cinematic norms we’ve come to accept, the audience laps it up- maybe this is a fresh start.
After rekindling her friendship with Oscar, the pair become a valuable part of each other’s lives. It’s organic, usual, and familiar. The red flags haven’t quite been raised yet, and so, when Hathaway’s character is shamed for her relationship history, or made to meet unreasonable demands at work, it takes time for the audience to detect the sinister undertones of the pair’s dynamic.
The portrayal of abusive relationships within the film is gradual. Each step that Oscar makes cementing himself as a necessity in Gloria’s life is met with gratitude, and recognised (incorrectly) as the product of well-meaning intentions. There’s a subtlety and understated horror to the way director, Nacho Vigalondo depicts the escalation of Gloria’s relationship with Oscar.
Though clumsy at times, the intertwinement of the film’s authentic underpinning with the supernatural sub-genre actually adds to the metaphorical duality of the plot. Upon visiting her childhood playground, Gloria learns that the geographical location has been imbued with transformative power. Each area of the plot of land corresponds to a part of Seoul, South Korea. Her movements with the recreational grounds parallel those of a quasi-reptillian monster with the ability to wreak havoc, that spontaneously appears in the East-Asian Region. Conflict arises when Oscar is made aware of his transformative capacities, endangering the lives of cities population.
“Colossal” subverts the victim-perpetrator dynamic so that Hathaway’s character is not subdued, or naive but shrewd and discerning yet immobilised all the same. Casualties arise as a by product of Oscars manipulative and careless behaviour, and Hathaway becomes an unlikely hero. The film’s sensitivity regarding abusive relationships is commendable, yet ‘Colossal’ also doesn’t shy away from the damage that the subject matter carries.
The narrative’s intermittently recognisable arc is offset by the supernatural parallels of the film. It’s somewhat predictable yet not without tact. ‘Colossal’ is about addiction; to control, to substance, and to power yet it’s not overly loaded, or emotionally draining.
Above all, Hathaway’s character does not disappoint. It was promising to see an investment in the development of her character; something that can’t be said for female actors across the board. As an audience, Vigalondo makes sure we want to see her succeed, not to be saved and that’s something I’m hoping to see more of in the industry.