A Monster Calls (2016)
Directed by: JA Bayona | 108 minutes | drama, fantasy | Actors: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Ben Moor, James Melville, Oliver Steer, Dominic Boyle, Jennifer Lim, Max Gabbay, Morgan Symes, Max Golds, Frida Palsson, Wanda Opalinska, Patrick Taggart, Lily-Rose Aslandogdu, Geraldine Chaplin, Liam Neeson
Family films often deal with the more light-hearted subjects in life, after all, they are for the whole family. Acceptance within a certain group is often a central theme in these kinds of prints. Director JA Bayona takes this concept, gives it his own twist and comes up with the tearjerker ‘A Monster Calls’, based on the book of the same name by Patrick Ness (who also wrote the screenplay). Will young Conor be able to accept his mother’s inevitable death? As mentioned, a solid tearjerker.
On paper it’s a simple story, Conor (Lewis MacDougall) has a mother (Felicity Jones) who is terminally ill. The boy closes his eyes to the truth and wants to spend as much time as possible with mom. At the same time, his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) keeps the entire family down to earth and suggests plans for the future. Is Conor going to live with his grandmother or with his father (Toby Kebbell) in America?
Quite a contemporary story, the monster from the title has yet to make its appearance. This giant tree creature doesn’t come to life very often, only when it’s really needed. He wants to find out Conor’s true inner struggles, but knows he’s not ready yet. To prepare him, he tells three stories. These are about the previous times when the monster had to intervene in the world of humans.
The addition of the monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) makes ‘A Monster Calls’ a modest masterpiece. He gives the story a certain weight so that most people will not keep it dry around the end of the film. The stories that are told take on that same seriousness, but that is also due to the beautiful animation style with which they are shaped.
The stories would even overshadow the main story if the acting wasn’t so absurdly good. Felicity Jones’ character Lizzie is an extremely touching mother and in the scenes she shares with protagonist MacDougall, the chemistry is splashing off the screen. At the same time, we want to see Sigourney Weaver as Mrs. We can blame Clayton as much as possible, but we secretly know she’s right. It is very easy for the viewer to identify with Conor. Depending on a child actor has not often been a good idea in the past, but today there are more and more examples of success stories. On the other hand, with a safety net from a cast like this, not much can go wrong.
However, ‘A Monster Calls’ is very heavy, and to hit all those emotional tones there is not much time or space left for a light-hearted moment. It is therefore certainly not a film that is recommended to everyone, nor one that is easy to watch again. And despite the fact that during certain scenes the violins really impose how sad the viewer must feel, the entire film is rock solid. JA Bayona thinks he’s a storyteller who can compete with the monster from the title.