A Monster CallsCultureCinemaMovie reviews
A Monster Calls is the latest addition to the ranks of films like The Iron Giant and The BFG with its take on the touching relationship between a child and his oversized friend. In this movie, however, the “monster” is actually a neatly incorporated plot device serving as young Conor O’Malley’s coping mechanism when he learns that his mother has fallen victim to terminal cancer. Lewis MacDougall’s performance as lead character is riveting and compellingly flawed, portraying Conor as an unlikable and gloomy child in the throes of adolescent rage and prolonged grief.
The young boy starts recurrently hallucinating a giant humanoid yew tree in superb CGI (firm buttocks and all), gravely voiced by Liam Neeson, who shows up at 00:07 every night to tell him odd tales about princes and apothecaries that are beautifully depicted in animated sequences but not particularly captivating in their content. The point is that none of these narratives have clearly defined good and bad guys, or any sort of happy endings – an unconventional concept for children’s stories if ever there was one. At the end of this series of tales, Conor must then tell the tree his deepest, darkest truth. The child soon learns to summon the monster whenever anger makes him reel out of control and do regrettable things.
All this may sound a little dark; well, the movie doesn’t get any brighter, and there is no happy ending, only the rationalisation of pain. No matter how much Conor wants to deny it, there is no escape from the inevitable.
If it is not sad enough to see the strained expression on Lizzie’s (Felicity Jones) face as she lies to her son about getting better, it certainly is to witness his cold and composed grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) slowly breaking apart as the plot progresses and ending up looking more deathly even than her daughter.
Needless to say, A Monster Calls is not the most family-friendly film out there, but it is also a tad on the simple side for adult viewers. Despite this odd inconsistency in its target audience, the movie transmits some important concepts to kids and grown-ups alike. There is a recurring theme of the yew tree’s healing powers throughout the picture and, ultimately, the monster’s aid is of a psychological nature. He helps Conor to come to terms with his imminent loss, and his benevolent presence is there for both the woman and her son when the boy cries over his mum’s frail body on her sickbed: the most heart-rending scene in this cruelly realistic children’s fantasy movie.
A Monster Calls is released nationwide on 1st January 2017.
Watch the trailer for A Monster Calls here: