Tissues at the ready…
12 year old Conor O’Malley, (Lewis MacDougall) must learn to deal with the deterioration of his mother (Felicity Jones) due to terminal cancer. His only further help comes from his Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), whom he dislikes. Friendless at school, Conor also has to deal with bullies. He soon confides in the Tree Monster (Liam Neeson) who pays him a visit.
Based on the fantasy book by Patrick Ness, Spanish filmmaker, J.A. Bayona re-envisions the tale in a remarkable light. He seeks to mirror our anxieties, and creates a dark framework that provokes and tests us individually. Despite the ‘fantasy’ premise, this makes for a notably heavy watch for younger children. It wouldn’t be advised bringing your little ones along to this viewing experience. Bayona’s delicate execution is presented in a stylistic approach; dazzling to the eyes. Connor’s clever CGI co-star touches upon ambiguous tales and subtly tackles themes that feature prominently in our lives, without us always knowing.
Neeson’s harsh voice is the perfect match for the unconventional tree Monster, exuding dread, which is nonetheless enhanced by the computer generated image appearance, which immediately evokes fear. The Monster’s telling tales juxtapose charmingly with the dreary reality of Conor’s life at present. It is rare for child actors to receive Oscar recognition, but Lewis MacDougall deserves to be noticed for his heart-wrenching performance as Conor O’Malley. Felicity Jones similarly shows off her talent, with scenes that are bound to leave you sobbing into your crumpled up tissue. Sigourney Weaver is a worthy addition, taking on the role of the stern grandmother, whose true personality is soon highlighted. Admittedly, too much focus is strained on her British accent, but a scene of silence places her back on the mark.
A Monster Calls makes for a surprisingly powerful input to what can be described as a drowsy year of film. A truly tragic tale, that embraces huge heart, and is simply drenched in imagination. Visually stunning, this is one of the stronger book to film adaptations to admire. An unforgettable feature film, with very little to fault.