There are few movies that have had the emotional impact on me as A Monster Calls. A Monster Calls is a dark yet beautiful fable about love and grief. It stars Felicity Jones as a young single mother and her son, Conor, the incredible Lewis MacDougall.
She is very sick with cancer and Conor is left alone to deal with what might happen and his present ordeal with bullies, an absent father and strict grandmother played by Sigourney Weaver. He copes with the help of the “Monster” voiced by Liam Neeson. He is a beautiful and terrifying tree that lives in the cemetery and comes to life to tell Conor three stories. The animation in the stories is enough reason to see the movie, but the monster is incredible. Before this movie, I was so over Liam Neeson who seems to pop up in everything these days. But he is marvelous here. I don’t want to give too much away, but the monster helps Conor to find strength and love in his situation.
A Monster Calls was directed by J.A. Bayona who also did The Impossible, the devastating film about a mother and son trying to find the rest of their family after they are swept away in the 2014 tsunami in Thailand. That movie was also difficult, emotional and very good. A Monster Calls is based on the book by Patrick Ness who was asked to write the book based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd. I can’t imagine a better movie adaptation.
A Monster Calls is about childhood, but one that might be difficult for younger viewers. There is some violence, scenes of bullying and some scary scenes. And it’s extremely emotional. I saw two screenings and there wasn’t a dry eye in either one. Part of that is the story, part of it the vivid animation and the other is the acting. Jones and MacDougall are so good. You can feel MacDougall’s pain and his teenage angst in every difficult situation he’s put into. You might leave feeling like you were hit by a Mack truck full of emotion, but this beautiful film is worth every minute.