A Monster Calls Review

“A Monster Calls” is a fantasy tale directed by J.A. Bayona starring Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall and Liam Neeson as the monster.  Based off the book by the same name, “A Monster Calls” tells the story of a young boy named Conor who summons the help of a magical tree monster in order to cope with his mother dying from an unknown illness.  “A Monster Calls” deals with grief and loneliness while also transporting audiences into a fantasy world of fairy tales and escape narratives that reflect the young boy’s state of mind and how he copes with the fact that his mother is dying.

“A Monster Calls” is an excellent picture.  Some might point out that it is very similar to Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and to a certain extent I can see the connections.  A child creates a magical fantasy world, with creatures and monster that he or she must overcome to escape the harsh realities of the real world.  This is exactly what “A Monster Calls” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” have in common, but other than that they are very different movies.  “A Monster Calls” is a poignant look at how children grieve and the unfairness of when a parent dies young.  “A Monster Calls” is at times scary, moving and extremely emotional from a narrative point of view.  This was such a creative and interesting take on a child’s fairytale with such originality and uniqueness.

The performances in “A Monster Calls” were excellent.  The boy Conor (Lewis MacDougall) was really the standout here turning in an Oscar worthy performance as the grieving and lonely child lost into a world of water color and escapism.  Felicity Jones was fantastic as the mother and Liam Neeson was perfect as the tree monster.  Sigourney Weaver also turned in a great performance as Conor’s grandmother.  The best parts of the film are the fairytale stories that the monster tells.  They were animated to life using these cool watercolored effects which in a way seemed similar to what we saw in the last “Harry Potter” film with the tale of the three brothers.  The animation was extremely creative unique and provided some hard hitting facts about Conor’s state of mind and why the stories are so important.  Director J.A. Bayona did a terrific job directing this film, pulling out the best from his performers, the camera work and the narrative, bringing all of these things to life.

Even though “A Monster Calls” is a dark kid’s fantasy tale, this certainly isn’t for children.  This movie has some really adult themes mostly concerning with death and loneliness and I wouldn’t recommend that children see this.  I think the movie is geared more towards young adults and adults as the themes are pretty mature.  But in saying that, the movie isn’t violent.  There isn’t any swearing, sex or anything gratuitous for that matter.  This is very much a tame movie with adult themes that are important to discuss when looking at the concept of death and dying.  The movie is emotional and will strike you in such a way that will leave you in tears.

“A Monster Calls” didn’t have anything in it that I didn’t like.  I tried really hard to think of things that bothered me about the movie and I honestly couldn’t find anything that was a weakness.  I think also I was so sucked into this world that I forgot what was reality.  Instead of being critical, I was swept up inside the fantasy land that Bayona was telling and I had no time to find the weaknesses in this film.  It may not be for everybody because of it being very sad, but this is not depressing like “Manchester by the Sea” was.  This film may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you give it a chance and analyse it there is so much that this film has to offer.

“A Monster Calls” is the most unique film that I have seen this year.  It’s emotionally gripping, poignant and the themes are universal that everyone can relate and connect to.  The performances are outstanding and the story was engaging and quirky.  The animation was creative and gave the film most of its meaning.  This is in the top 10 movies of 2016 for sure and I cannot recommend this film enough.

Grade:  A+

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