I’m not one to openly shed tears during a movie screening but every now and then a rare film manages to capture my soul and squeeze every tear drop out. In 2016, that movie was A Monster Calls. Having never read the story, I had no idea what to expect. Other than viewing the trailer, everything about this film was a big mystery to me.
Based on a book by Patrick Ness, “A Monster Calls” taps into the naivety of childhood by revealing the painful truth of adulthood.
Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is “a boy too old to be a kid, too young to be a man,” who’s world is slowly crumbling around him. Bullied at school Connor finds little peace at home as his mum (Felicity Jones) is very sick and unable to care for herself. From this deep sadness, Connor must find the inner strength to face his deepest fears.
After a sleepless night, Connor is drawn to a mysterious energy moving household objects around. From the loud cracking sounds of wood breaking, he witnesses a monster exploding out of a yew tree outside his bedroom window.
The Monster (voiced and motion-captured by Liam Neeson) knows everything about Conor including his sick mum. To help help him understand the truths of life, the monster offers to tell Conor three stories with the caveat that Conor must come up with a fourth story. Uncertain to believe what he’s seeing, Conor agrees to the request and it’s soon after the monster’s strategy is reveled.
Director J.A. Bayona does a masterful job slowly drawing you into Conor’s journey. In using CGI graphics and wonderful animated sequences, Bayona explores the many possibilities of digital realism in conveying the difficulties of real life both good and bad. Lewis MacDougal’s performance as Conor was wonderful and really connected with me. Felicity Jones was equally impressive in conveying real emotion of a mother’s love for her child. This is a director who truly understands his craft and is someone to be really excited about.
While I highly recommend A Monster Calls, be sure to bring Kleenex, it’s quite the tear jerker.
Rating: 5 stars
For a real treat, watch Liam Neeson Reads ‘A MONSTER CALLS’
12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with far more than other boys his age. His beloved and devoted mother (Felicity Jones) is ill. He has little in common with his imperious grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). His father (Toby Kebbell) has resettled thousands of miles away. But Conor finds a most unlikely ally when the Monster (portrayed by Liam Neeson in performance-capture and voiceover) appears at his bedroom window one night. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith, and truth that powerfully fuses imagination and reality.
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson
Written by: Patrick Ness, based on his novel “A Monster Calls”
Directed by: J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible,” “The Orphanage”)