FILM REVIEW: A Monster Calls (12A)

A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls

Cinema ticket? Check. Popcorn? Check. Tissues? Check! writes reviewer Mikey Clarke.

I have cried whilst watching movies more times than I care to admit. However, nothing in 2016 really got the waterworks going.

Sure, I saw some ‘sad’ films, but I wasn’t particularly invested into any characters enough to care for their fate and therefore, even when someone died, there were no tears.

The first film I’ve seen in 2017 has more than made up for a year of ‘dry eyes’ – as by the end of A Monster Calls, I was bawling like a baby.

Based on the best-selling book by Patrick Ness and directed by J A Bayona (The Orphanage and The Impossible), this tear-jerker begins with a young boy named Conor O’Malley (newcomer Lewis MacDougall) having a nightmare.

He and his mother (Felicity Jones) are in a churchyard while the ground around them begins to collapse. She is at risk of falling into the abyss. Could this nightmare be linked to the fact that his mother is dying in real life? Most definitely.

And on top of having to deal with this traumatic situation, Conor has a father (Toby Kebbell) who he hardly sees – and he’s also bullied at school.

To deal with the stresses that life is throwing at him, he seeks solace in drawing and painting. Before long, one of his creations, a 40-foot-tall tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) ‘comes to life’ and makes his way to Conor’s bedroom window.

This ‘monster’ explains that he will visit him every night to tell him three fables – each intended to help him see life with more clarity – before Conor has to tell a fourth story of his own.

These tales are played out in stunning animation – much like that lauded sequence in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One – with each story being a work of art in its own right.

As expected, Neeson does a fantastic job voicing the Monster.

He makes the character relatable and compelling, which simply shouldn’t be the case given that he has no name, little backstory and is … well, a tree!

What wasn’t quite as expected was the remarkable performance of MacDougall, whose only previous role was playing a lost boy in 2015’s disappointing Pan. Here, he has to juggle a mix of emotions and he pulls each one off like a pro.

Overall, A Monster Calls is a must see coming-of-age fantasy. Most of us have fought our emotions in one way or another in the past, and some won’t like the fact that this flick could bring back some painful memories.

But, just like the movie teaches us, it’s okay to express pain. It can be healthy in fact – so bring your tissues and just go with it.

One thing’s for sure, if this is anything to go by then Jurassic World 2 – J A Bayona’s first major big-budget movie – is in very safe hands.

Rating: 4.5/5