Based on Christopher Bram's novel Father of Frankenstein, Bill Condon's semi-fictional 1998 stars Sir Ian McKellen as director James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Show Boat).

It is 1957, and Whale is living in semi seclusion in Southern California with his scrutinising maid, Hannah (Lynn Redgrave). His health is failing, and he is able to do little but lounge around and contemplate his younger days – his many male loves, his days in WWI, and the film world that has forsaken him. When Whale first gazes upon his muscle-bound gardener, Clay (Brendan Fraser), however, it is the beginning of an unusual (and platonic) friendship.

Seasoned with multiple flashbacks to the sets of his films and to the battlefield, Gods and Monsters is a haunting and touching look at the life of a man who was at the top of the Hollywood hierarchy but soon found himself out of favours – and the offbeat friendship he formed in his final days.

4.5
An extraordinary film, rich with emotion and a compelling performance from Ian McKellan.

What could have happened in the last month of James Whale`s life in Hollywood in 1957 is the subject of Gods and Monsters - Whale played wonderfully by Sir Ian McKellan has suffered a mild stroke which, while not affecting him physically, causes his mind to flash to painful times in his life. He has a contempt for the gradual debilitating future awaiting him. And then into his life comes handsome gardener Clayton Boone - Brendan Fraser. This young man, who bears a not accidental resemblance to Whale`s monster, is wary of his overtly homosexual employer. He gets, however, no sympathy from Whale`s devoted housekeeper Anna - Lynn Redgrave.

This is a multi-layered, highly enjoyable film. Whale`s mischievous ironic wit which masks disappointment and pain is vastly entertaining. Rarely do we come to grips with a man facing his own mortality in film without syrupy sentiment and without manipulative hystrionics. With Gods and Monsters, co-writer and director Bill Condon pinpoints a crucial moment in Whale`s life in the perspective of his life as a whole - his humble beginnings in England, his experiences during World War 1 and his early success in Hollywood, which sadly began to elude him in the late 1930`s. It`s such an impressive film from Condon, marked by not only outstanding performances from Ian McKellan and Lynn Redgrave, but also from Brendan Fraser - who shows an intelligence and subtlety in his portrayal of a man who develops a compassion for his nemesis. Really one of the best films of recent times.