Review: A Monster Calls

Since trees are capable of living for hundreds of years, one could say that they could tell stories about how the world around them change time over time, but trees are not sentient being like humans; meaning to say that they cannot speak or hear or think despite being living creatures.

From the imagination of Patrick Ness and brought to vivid life by J.A. Bayona, one unsuspecting yew tree comes to life to the aid of a young boy named Conor, who is caught in the middle of very unfortunate circumstances at home and at school. A Monster Calls is a magical and emotionally evocative story about a boy who has to come to grips about the events that are happening to and around him before it’s too late.

This is beautiful and haunting film told in watercolor and nightmares and tales about human complexity that are initially difficult to interpret but the impact in its telling and these characters is something to be commended! Author and screenwriter Patrick Ness adapted his celebrated novel to the screen with great panache and J.A. Bayona proved that he was the right man for job in breathing life into this adaptation that is equal parts frightening, puzzling, breathtaking and A Monster Calls lingers after you leave the theater.

What makes A Monster Calls so special is that you allow yourself to feel the emotions that Conor is going through; the anger, the sorrow, the helplessness and the film is a journey to explore those emotions and get closure which is ultimately what the story of A Monster Calls is about; it’s about the need to get closure, to resolve your feelings, to face the truth about dire circumstances and growing from them.

Lewis MacDougall is very formidable in his debut as the artistic yet troubled and tortured Conor O’Malley. Felicity Jones as his ailing mother is very good, Sigourney Weaver as the estranged grandmother delivers a fine performance, Toby Kebbell is good as Conor’s absentee father and Liam Neeson lends his distinct voice to the Monster, this storytelling and enchanting guide through Conor’s pain and trials throughout this film.

The supporting cast of James Melville, Ben Moor, Jennifer Lim, Dominic Boyle, they’re okay but they come in and out of the movie so quickly they don’t exactly have a chance to stand out but this is, for the most part, MacDougall, Jones, Weaver and Neeson’s movie to shine.

Oscar Faura’s cinematography is pretty, Jaume Martí and Bernat Vilaplana’s editing is crisp, Eugenio Caballero’s production design is marvelous, the art direction is stunning and the visual effects are sweeping. This was a practical but well-executed film that holds your attention from start to finish.

There is tremendous beauty and depth in the thought-provoking tale of A Monster Calls. I very much encourage everyone to see this film because it takes you away and holds you captive in its storytelling but it is honest in all aspects of its production and the end result is a very compelling piece of film.

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