A Monster Calls: Movie Review
A still from the film
Film: A Monster Calls
Cast: Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Based on a pre-teen’s point of view, this gothic poem about grief is searing in it’s concentrated voyage through the 12-year-old’s aggrieved mind as he grapples with unbearable emotional pain through the break-up of his secure world followed by an oncoming personal tragedy.
Acclaimed director Juan Antonio ("The Impossible,") Bayona’s breathtaking film is based on the award-winning children's fantasy novel initially conceived by Siobhan Dowd and created into YA novel form by Patrick Ness (who also scripted this film) and illustrator Jim Kay. Conor O' Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is a sad, lonely child. He is, as the narration states, “too old to be a kid, too young to be a man.” His terminally ill mother(Felicity Jones) is his only anchor, his estranged father (Toby Kebbell) lives across the Atlantic with his new family , his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) appears too cold and overbearing, while his schoolmates bully with impunity. It’s certainly not a life that anyone can envy. Then, one night, The Monster (Liam Neeson) made from the bark, roots, and branches of a giant yew tree that stands in a nearby churchyard, comes calling at 12:07 and informs the frightened boy that he will return four more times. On each of the next three visits, he will tell Conor a story and Conor is expected to reveal his darkest nightmare.
Sounds like a dark fantasy fable doesn’t it? But it’s not. This one is much more deeper and intimately heart-touchingly real than any fable can hope to be. The monster may be intimidating but he is not there to harm Conor, but to heal him. But Conor’s grief and pain are such that he can’t verbalise the inevitable guilt over a truth so agonizing that it almost consumes him... Lucky for him that he imbibed his mother’s artistic talents and childhood memories forming a fragile shield to help him subvert his greatest nightmare.
The heart- wrenching foreclosure is self-revelatory. This film is both beautiful to look at as well as beautiful in experience. There are several intense moments set-up to give the audience a glimpse into the ravaging pain of the young adult. His brief conversation with his grandmother during a rainy drive to the hospital will make you break out into tears. All the pent up emotions of the young boy and his grandmother are exposed to the naked eye in that brief surreal experience framed in autumnal resonance.
The cinematography by Óscar Faura is visually ensnaring. The special effects live action is enhanced by “paper cutout” animation and allows for great depth. The narration is strong on philosophical and emotional resonance. This is a film that has the power to shake you to your core.